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Drug Policy Alliance
New York, NY (Headquarters)
givvers: jason, tweaks

The Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network) is the nation’s leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

Our supporters are individuals who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. Together we advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies. We work to ensure that our nation’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions of nonviolent people. Our work inevitably requires us to address the disproportionate impact of the drug war on people of color.

Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Keith Lamont Scott is dead at the age of 43. A father of seven children with a wife of 20 years and a cognitive impairment from a motorcycle accident, Mr. Scott is gone from this earth and lost from his loved ones, invariably leaving them with unspeakable grief. Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina is inflamed with massive public discontent in the form of protests.

Why did Mr. Scott lose his life? Charlotte police claim he had a gun. His family says he was holding a book. Video footage released by both Scott’s wife and the police is jarring and disturbing but gives no conclusive evidence about the gun. Charlotte police stepped out with more information over the weekend to explain their use of extreme violence: they claim that Scott was in possession of marijuana.

At a Saturday press conference, Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said that police initially approached Scott because he was in possession of marijuana, but that the situation escalated when police allegedly saw Scott was also in possession of a gun.

So Keith Lamont Scott is dead because of a joint and a mystery gun or whatever else may have been in his hand.

I have pointed out again and again, really to the point of exhaustion and despair (so much so that I could barely bring myself to write about this another time), that even though the national debate is evolving about marijuana use and drug policy, police departments seem to be stuck a hundred years ago, when “cocaine-crazed Negros” and Mexican “reefer madness” were the order of the day.  

The fact that police continue to reference drugs as a contributing factor in their decisions to execute people (as was done just last week in the case of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma), means they are either really misinformed about drug use and public safety (scary) or blatantly using drugs to cover their asses when they behave in racist ways, abuse their power and kill someone (even scarier).

It is disturbing and extreme and should be making all of us sick to our stomachs. Marijuana is a substance that has been used by half of Americans, is cheerfully enjoyed throughout pop culture, and in several states is a burgeoning legal commodity. But apparently, if you’re black in North Carolina, marijuana possession is also just cause for public execution.

This must end. The drug war is a racist tool for committing human rights abuses and has given a greenlight to state violence and police corruption. We must legalize marijuana, end the drug war, and make every endeavor to repair the harms caused by decades of this monstrous policy.

Sharda Sekaran the managing director of communications for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Sharda Sekaran
Date Published: September 27, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

On August 30, the DEA announced that it intends to temporarily place kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia, on the list of Schedule I drugs – effective this Friday, September 30.

Without a serious scientific investigation the DEA intends to subject anyone caught with any quantity of kratom to long prison sentences, while effectively halting scientific investigation into kratom’s medicinal benefits, and making it impossible to enact sensible legal regulations. Many people struggling with opioid addiction have turned to kratom as a safer alternative, but now all promising scientific studies on its role in opioid treatment could be immediately shut down.

If the DEA gets its way, more people who struggle with addiction could be criminalized, which is exactly the opposite direction drug policy should be going -- especially given the scientific and political consensus that drug use and addiction are most effectively treated as health issues.  A bipartisan effort is currently underway in the U.S. House of Representatives encouraging more research and asking the DEA to postpone this decision.

The Drug Policy Alliance is fighting to put the brakes on kratom prohibition and will hold a national teleconference this Tuesday, September 27 at 2:00pm ET / 11:00am PT
(Contact Tony Newman for call-in information: 646-335-5384)

Speakers include:

  • Susan Ash, Director, American Kratom Association
  • Jag Davies, Director of Communications Strategy, Drug Policy Alliance (moderator)
  • Dr. Andrew Kruegel, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Chemistry, Columbia University
  • Congressman Mark Pocan or aide (tentative)
  • Grant Smith, Deputy Director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Andrew Turner, Retired U.S. Navy Officer
Date Published: September 26, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

How to Get Away with Murder

Step one: Make sure you have a badge and the person you are murdering is black

Step two: Add drugs

Terence Crutcher was gunned down by a law enforcement officer on Friday after his car broke down in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Video captures him walking towards his car with his hands in the air. Moments later he was crumpled on the road with little indication of alarm or effort to provide him aid. He was unarmed, forty-years-old and black. The police officers on the scene appeared to have waited more than two and half minutes before approaching Crutcher as he lay bleeding.

This horrific incident comes on the heels of a stream of graphic, traumatizing video accounts of police violence and a national climate of racism, denial and mistrust. The police officer who fired her gun at Terence Crutcher, Betty Shelby, and the officer who stunned him with a Taser, Tyler Turnbough, have both been put on administrative leave with pay.

Last week, the Drug Policy Alliance and Revolve Impact released a video on the New York Times website that was illustrated by artist Molly Crabapple and narrated by the legendary rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z. The video got major attention and spread all over the internet like wildfire. Part of this can be attributed to the allure of celebrity but it’s also because Jay Z’s message struck a very deep chord: Black and brown people are routinely targeted with gross impunity and cruelty by law enforcement and the drug war invariably plays a huge role in the problem.

One need look no further than Terence Crutcher’s death to see how this plays out. As was the case with Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland, we are seeing that the early signs in the process of publicly defaming his character involve accusations of drug use.

Tulsa police are now saying that officers found PCP in Terence Crutcher’s car. This seems like another convenient example of pathological tendencies on the part of law enforcement to use drugs as an excuse to do whatever they want.

Even though people of all races use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates, black and Latino people are overwhelming the majority of those arrested and convicted for non-violent drug offenses. This is because the drug war has been an inherently racist policy that gives cops free reign to unfairly target people of color. We can no longer attempt to delude ourselves that police are the “good guys,” whom we can trust to make split second decisions about who the “bad guys” are and who should live or die on the basis of race, body type, class and oh yes, of course, implied drug use.

Sharda Sekaran the managing director of communications for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Sharda Sekaran
Date Published: September 21, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

El magnate del hip-hop Jay Z aborda las condiciones raciales dentro del contexto de la guerra contra las drogas en un contundente corto animado que muestra el racismo de las leyes prohibicionistas de drogas y la aplicación desproporcionada de las mismas, políticas que han destruido las vidas y comunidades de personas de color, mayoritariamente personas negras y latinas.

El video de cuatro minutos, titulada From Prohibition to Gold Rush (con subtítulos en español), es narrada por Jay Z e ilustrada por la afamada artista y activista Molly Crabapple. Es en parte una lección de historia, y en parte una declaración de visión . Lanzado en el sitio de internet del New York Times, el filme traza la historia de la guerra contra las drogas y su impacto en las comunidades negras y latinas, desde el Presidente Nixon hasta las draconianas Leyes Rockefeller, y hace énfasis en la falta de equidad racial y económica en la emergente industria de la marihuana legal.

Al haber legalizado la marihuana los estados de Colorado, Washington, Oregon y Washington D.C., muchos activistas y creadores de políticas públicas ven California como el verdadero momento culminante para que haya una legalización y cambio en la clasificación a nivel federal. Aunque muchos creen que la marihuana ha sido esencialmente legal en California porque fue el primer estado en legalizar la marihuana medicinal en 1996 – lo cierto es que todavía no es legal.

De hecho, la verdad nos da mucho que pensar. Destacada en un reporte reciente, casi medio millón de personas fueron arrestadas en California por faltas relacionadas con la marihuana en la última década, aplicando estas leyes mayoritariamente a personas negras y latinas en tasas alarmantes. Asimismo, los jóvenes menores de 18 años forman la desmesurada mayoría de los arrestos por faltas menores. De nuevo, los jóvenes y adultos negros y latinos padecen el embate de estas políticas excesivas, destruyendo familias debido a la encarcelación y la deportación, y arruinando oportunidades de vida para cada una de estas personas.

Además, como se muestra explícitamente en el video, existen estados donde la industria legal ha explotado, pero han creado leyes que prohíben a ciertas personas de participar en el mercado regulado; principalmente a personas con antecedentes penales (incluyendo los delitos menores, como en Washington). La mayoría de los arrestos y penas por delitos de drogas provienen de ofensas no violentas de bajo nivel. Por lo tanto, incluso en la era de la legalización, las comunidades de color continúan recibiendo impactos negativos, a pesar de que la ofensiva de la guerra contra las drogas fue dirigida hacia ellas en primer lugar. Y es un cuento que nunca acaba, o como Jay Z bromea en el video,

Por eso, activistas de la propuesta de ley ciudadana para la legalización de la marihuana en California aseguran que la Prop. 64 va más allá de cualquier otra ley en términos de abordar las disparidades raciales y prevenir las barreras a la industria legal. La co-colaboradora del video por parte de la Drug Policy Alliance, dream hampton, de Revolve Impact, asegura que,

“Como residente de California, me complace especialmente que este video habla directamente al corazón de la equidad económica. En Noviembre, California tendrá la oportunidad de votar Sí a la Prop 64, la medida de legalización de la marihuana más orientada a la justicia racial que nunca.”

“No sólo reduce –y en muchos casos, elimina – las penas por delitos relacionados con la marihuana, también es retroactiva; que significa que las personas que están encarceladas innecesariamente por pequeñas cantidades de marihuana podrán salir y sus antecedentes penales quedarán borrados. Además, significa que cientos de millones de dólares serán invertidos directamente en las comunidades más dañadas por la policía y el sistema de justicia criminal,” concluyó hampton.

Jay Z asegura al final del video que “la guerra contra las drogas es un fracaso épico”. La ferocidad sistemática y la aplicación desproporcionada de estas leyes hacia los negros y latinos son violaciones a los derechos humanos. Es tiempo de reformar este sistema.

Author: Melissa Franqui
Date Published: September 20, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Hip-hop mogul Jay Z takes on race and the drug war in a hard-hitting animated short that illustrates racist drug laws and disparate law enforcement; policies and policing that have wreaked havoc on the lives and communities of people of color, mostly Black and Latino.

The four-minute work, dubbed From Prohibition to the Gold Rush is narrated by Jay Z and illustrated by famed artist and activist Molly Crabapple. It is part history lesson and part vision statement. Launched on the New York Times website, the film traces the drug war and its impact on Black and Latino communities from President Nixon to draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, and applies a keen lens on the lack of economic and racial equity in the emerging legal marijuana industry.

With Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Washington D.C. among the first to legalize, most advocates and policy makers see California as the true tipping point for inevitable federal de-scheduling and legalization. Although many believe that marijuana has essentially been legal in California because it was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 – it’s not legal yet.

In fact, the truth is sobering. In a recent report, nearly half a million people were arrested in California for marijuana offenses over the last decade, with laws unequally enforced against Blacks and Latinos at staggering rates. Additionally, youth under 18 years of age unconscionably made up the majority of misdemeanor arrests. Again, Black and Latino adults and youth endured the brunt of this excessive policing – breaking up families through incarceration and deportation and ruining life opportunities for every single one of these individuals.

Moreover, explicitly depicted in the video, states where the above-ground market has boomed, nefariously crafted laws prohibit some people from participating in the legal market, mostly people with prior felonies, and even misdemeanors like in Washington State. Prior drug arrests and convictions are largely comprised of low-level and non-violent drug offenses. Therefore, even in the age of legalization, communities of color continue to be negatively impacted, given that the drug war offensive targeted them in the first place. And round and round we go, or as Jay Z quips in the video, “Got it?”

That said, advocates of California’s marijuana legalization ballot measure argue that Prop. 64 goes further than any law before in terms of addressing racial disparities and preventing barriers into the legal industry. The Drug Policy Alliance’s co-collaborator on the video, dream hampton, from Revolve Impact, says,

“As a resident of California, I am especially pleased that this video speaks directly to the heart of economic equity. In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote Yes on Prop 64, which is the most racial-justice-oriented marijuana legalization measure ever.”

“It not only reduces and in many cases eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, but it’s retroactive, meaning people needlessly sitting in jail for small amounts of marijuana, can get out and have their records expunged. Plus, it drives hundreds of millions of dollars in direct funding and investments to communities most harmed by police and the criminal justice system,” hampton concluded.

Jay Z said it best at the end of the video, “The War on Drugs is an epic fail.” Its continued systemic ferocity and disproportionate application on Blacks and Latinos amount to nothing short of human rights violations – it’s time for reform.

Melissa Franqui is the communications coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Melissa Franqui
Date Published: September 20, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

The DEA is trying to make kratom a Schedule I drug. Help us stop it before it's too late!

Date Published: September 16, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Shawn "Jay Z" Carter has teamed up with acclaimed artist Molly Crabapple on a striking animated video, launched today in the New York Times, that slams the war on drugs. The video traces the drug war and its impact on the Black community from President Nixon to the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws to the emerging aboveground marijuana market that is poised to make legal millions for wealthy investors doing the same thing that generations of people of color have been arrested and locked up for.

The four-minute work, narrated by Jay Z, is part history lesson and part vision statement.  He maps the devastation caused by the war on drugs and raises important questions about economic equity in the emerging aboveground marijuana industry.

Molly Crabapple, celebrated artist, activist and author, hand painted and animated the video with her distinctive style. The video, “From Prohibition to Gold Rush,” was produced in collaboration between Revolve Impact and the Drug Policy Alliance.

The video addresses mass incarceration, racial discrimination in drug arrests, the emerging legal marijuana market, and the need to repair the drug war’s harms to the African American community. Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and use and sell drugs at similar rates to people of other races – yet comprise 31 percent of those arrested for drug law violations, and nearly 40 percent of those incarcerated in state or federal prison for drug law violations.

“Jay Z and Molly Crabapple’s groundbreaking video will educate millions of people about the devastation wrought on the African American community because of the drug war,” said asha bandele, Senior Director for Grants, Partnerships and Special Projects at the Drug Policy Alliance. “That it is offered at a moment when policymakers are finally joining advocates in demanding an end to the architecture that actually incentivizes biased policing and police violence makes it especially timely,” said bandele.

“As a resident of California, I am especially pleased that this video speaks directly to the heart of economic equity,” said dream hampton of Revolve Impact.  She continued, “In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote Yes on Prop 64, which is the most racial-justice-oriented marijuana legalization measure ever. It not only reduces and in many cases eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, but it’s retroactive, meaning people needlessly sitting in jail for small amounts of marijuana, can get out and have their records expunged. Plus, it drives hundreds of millions of dollars in direct funding and investments to communities most harmed by police and the criminal justice system,” hampton concluded.

The video and critique of the drug war comes a few months after an unprecedented group of voices called for an end to the war on drugs. In April, on the eve of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem, world leaders and activists signed a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to set the stage “for real reform of global drug control policy.” The more than 1,000 people who signed the letter included: Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, businessmen Warren Buffett, George Soros, Richard Branson and Barry Diller, actors Michael Douglas and Woody Harrelson, Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, singers John Legend and Mary J. Blige, activists Reverend Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem and Michelle Alexander, as well as distinguished legislators, cabinet ministers, and former UN officials.

Revolve Impact is a global social impact firm that combines organizing and the creative arts to drive communities to action..

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in human rights, health, compassion and science.

*For a transcript of the video, please contact Tony Newman at tnewman [at] drugpolicy [dot] org*

Date Published: September 15, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance | Revolve Impact

Jay Z and Molly Crabapple have just released a new video, “From Prohibition to Gold Rush,” that addresses everything from mass incarceration and criminalization, to the emerging above-ground marijuana market, to the need to repair the harms the drug war visits upon communities of color.

Watching this video made me look back on my decade of working in drug policy reform.  There was a time when I was blind to the injustices highlighted in the video and that were going on around me because I carried my own stigma around drug use and drug sellers.

I remember getting involved in this work and thinking, “Am I being a responsible parent?”

“Was I working to change laws to make drug use acceptable?”

“What kind of messages was I sending my son?”

The more I learned about drug policy and the enforcement of drug laws, the more I realized that the war on drugs is really an unconscionable system designed to oppress people of color – people like me.

People like my son.

As a Black man, it became clearer to me the dangerous path I’d been walking. I grew up believing that drugs were bad and were destroying our neighborhoods. I thought that if you carried yourself a certain way, you wouldn’t be harassed by cops looking for drug sellers and users. In a white dominant culture where conformity is survival, I survived.

As my son was coming of age, he wanted the freedom to express himself in ways that I didn't understand. I wanted my son to be free to express himself. He would try out different hairstyles that I thought were ridiculous. I would clown him about his fashion sense and give him lectures about how he needed to conform so he wouldn't be targeted. I often found myself badgering him about acting certain way to avoid being labeled as “one of those kids.”

I felt he was naive in his wanting to express himself however he wanted and enjoy life the way he saw it. In actuality, he woke me up to why I do this work in drug policy reform. Why should he have to conform or worry about someone’s opinion of him if he's comfortable in his own skin?  His push for self-expression is the core of drug policy reform. This video reminded me of that revelation.

As a drug policy reformer I am also a harm reductionist.  I believe that every life has value. And when I talk with my son about harm reduction it has a layered meaning. We discussed the tremendous harm that can come to him in other ways that is tied to drugs but not necessarily drug use. We talked about a system that made it okay for authorities, law enforcement and school officials to target him, even though his white peers use drugs at the same rate.

For some kids, trying out drugs and experimenting is a rite of passage. Yet for my son, that decision could put him on a path to a caste system and a lifetime of obstacles. We live in a system that uses the drug war to target a young man who has aspirations to be a music artist, who graduated high school with honors, who was vice president of his student body, is attending college, and works part time simply because he fits a profile that is used to fill prisons.

Unfortunately for my son, his rite of passage includes being subjected to illegal searches and possible violence by the hands of the police. And that is just plain wrong—just as it is wrong for me, a father, to have to fear for his life every morning when I give him a hug and tell him to be safe.

I won't keep him from living his life on his own terms. And I will support anything that will make his existence on this earth a little safer.

Each drug law we dismantle is a weapon that can't be used against my son or other sons in our community.

Like Jay says in the video, “it’s time to rethink our policies and laws. The War on Drugs is an epic fail.”

Judh Grandchamps, Jr. is the manager of development operations at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Judh Grandchamps, Jr.
Date Published: September 15, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance