The DPA: What Is The Drug Policy Alliance?

The DPA, short for the Drug Policy Alliance, is a non-profit organization based in New York City. The organization’s director is Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno. Their goals include the ending of the war on drugs in America. The DPA organization prioritizes the decriminalization of responsible drug use, with the promotion of harm reduction and treatment in response to drug abuse, and the motion of having a conversation of drugs between youth, parents, and educators.

This article will deepen your knowledge regarding the DPA.


The Drug Policy Foundation and the Lindesmith Center are the backbones of the Drug Policy Alliance. The two merged in July 2000, and the founder of the Lindesmith Center, Ethan Nadelmann, became the first executive director of the DPA.

They possess offices in five different states, including a national affairs office in Washington, D.C. It serves as a lobby for federal reform. In New York City, NY. is where the administrative and media headquarters are located. The office for legal affairs is found in Oakland, CA. The other state offices are in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The rest of the state offices are placed in Santa Fe, NM., Trenton, NJ., and Denver, CO.

People have stood up against the War on Drugs in favor of the Drug Policy Alliance like the broadcast journalist, Walter Cronkite. He showed it in advertisements for the organization and drafted a fundraising letter which was later featured in the Huffington Post. The letter that Cronkite wrote included:

“Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its’ casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens due to the war in the country. The war that we are speaking of, is the war on drugs. And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs if a failure.”

Major Concerns


The Drug Policy Alliance thinks that cannabis shouldn’t be illegal, that it should be legalized for the use of medicine taken by severely ill patients. The organization works hand in hand in various states to educate and to enlighten the governors and the people. They shed light on their beliefs on medicinal marijuana. They have been successful with the compassionate use bill. They gave access to medical marijuana to New Mexico in 2007.

The Decline of the War on Drugs

The DPA beliefs include the decline of the war on drugs in America. They argue with the conclusion that the United States has tried but failed because they have spent billions of dollars with the goal of making the country drug-free. However, there are still many illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc., that are more frequently abused.


One of the beliefs of the DPA concludes that deaths caused by overdose should be treated as a medical issue and not as a criminal issue. They put up the Drug Overdose Reduction Act as their solution.

Parents, Teens, and Drugs

Another set of beliefs includes the need to provide access regarding credible information about drugs to young people. They believe that having an informative conversation is something that can help other youth as well. This concept bore the Safety First Project.

State by State

The DPA argues with the concept that there are a variety of drugs, and this variety gives rise to other medical problems. Their feedback is to form multiple policies specific for each drug rather than creating one generic drug only. The alliance thinks that prosperous harm reduction stands as a significant factor in these types of problems.

Health Appeals

Once again, the DPA thinks that harm reduction is one of the best approaches to drug abuse problems. They come up with the argument that it is an operation to lessen the effects of drug abuse and not as an advertisement for drug legalization.


The alliance supposes that multiple arrests for drug possession conflicted with the different constitutional rights as Americans. They have entered the battle for fighting for their rights through their own Office of Legal Affairs. The organization funded the “Flex Your Rights,” which is a non-profit organization centered on educating the people regarding their constitutional rights when having problems with the police.

Troubled Communities

The DPA also considers that the war on drugs in America does not affect the public in the same intensity. Some groups suffer the most are Women, Minorities, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals & Transgenders, and Dance, Music, and Entertainment.

Drug Policies All Around The World

The organization stresses that countries around the world face their war on drugs as well but have different approaches than the United States. They believe that other countries can serve as a model for their techniques in battling the war on drugs for the United States.


The DPA gave their support for California’s Proposition 36. Prop 36, along with the formation of the Drug Courts, provided the opportunity to seek help and treatment in drug rehabilitation programs for non-violent drug offenders. They used to serve jail sentences. The Drug Courts removed the drug rehabilitation centers that are unlicensed.

The organization is a sponsor of the 1996 landmark medical marijuana law, Proposition 215 in California. This organization created the opportunity for seriously ill patients to avail of cannabis, and as well as a reduced criminal penalty when caught for possession. DPA proceeded to stress drug policy legislation along with Proposition 215 in Alaska during 1998, in Oregon during 1998, in Washington during 1998, Maine in 1999, Colorado in 2000, Nevada in 1998, and 2000, New Mexico in 2007.

During the year 2000, the DPA cooperated with another landmark treatment-not-incarceration law in California named Proposition 36. It gives substance abuse treatment for first and second-time non-violent drug offenders and not jail time. Statistics have shown that more than 84,000 people didn’t serve jail time and instead graduated from treatment.

The DPA signed into law in New Jersey, and an act called the “Blood-Borne Disease Harm Reduction Act.” It was established in 2006, and it allowed six cities to develop a syringe access program. It is a program considered a harm reduction measure that provides needles and syringes for reducing the transmission of other diseases like HIV/AIDS, and other blood-borne diseases.

The organization works hard across the country to pass the “911 Good Samaritan, Immunity Laws.” This law stresses the recognition of the availability of 911 for overdose witnesses. Those who seek medical help will have reduced drug possession charges. The DPA instigated a campaign in New Mexico to pass the law, and it became successful in 2007.

The DPA also works to help and get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing and racially-based sentencing schemes in different states and federal levels with those cases concerning crack and cocaine.

The alliance also gave their support to the bill that legalized cannabis in Uruguay in 2013.

DPA Awards

The organization recognizes and gives annual awards to honor advocates, elected officials, and organizations for their admirable work in helping to reform drug laws. These include:

  • Edward M. Brecher received the Award for Achievement in the Field of Journalism; he is an American science writer who advocates for human sexuality and the rights of people who are leaning towards suicide.
  • Richard J. Dennis claimed the Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform; he is known as the “Prince of the Pit.” He started as a runner in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at the age of 17 and started to trade by himself after a few years.
  • Alfred R. Lindesmith bagged the Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship; he is a professor of sociology at Indiana University. He is known as one of the first scholars who showed great results.
  • Robert C. Randall claimed the Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action; he was an advocate for medical marijuana, and known as the first medical marijuana smoker in the United States. He is the founder of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics.
  • Norman E. Zinberg claimed the Award for Achievement in the Field of Medicine; he is a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who researched addiction. He is a significant influence in that field, and he inspired other treatment specialists like Stanton Peele.
  • H.B. Spear received the Award for Achievement in the Field of Control and Enforcement; he is the chief inspector of the drugs branch of the Home Office.
  • Justice Gerald Le Dain bagged the Award for Achievement in the Field of Law; he is a Canadian lawyer and judge who sat in the Supreme Court of Canada for more than three years.
  • Dr. Andrew Weil claimed the Award for Achievement in the Field of Drug Education; he is an American celebrity doctor who advocates for alternative medicine.