Blog Post

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno's Message to DPA Staff Announcing her Departure in March

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

Dear DPAers,

I am writing to let you know that I will be stepping down from the role of executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance on March 6 to take a job at my previous organization, Human Rights Watch. 

The senior management team and Derek have been highly engaged in planning for the next steps, and the board is actively discussing the process to identify the next Executive Director. Meanwhile, we have identified a highly experienced interim ED, Richard Burns, to take the reins of DPA after my departure, until a new executive director can step in. 

It has been a privilege to lead DPA over the past two-plus years, and to fight alongside you for an issue about which I care passionately, ending the drug war. I have learned so much from the experience and from working with all of you, and I am very proud of our accomplishments.

But as most of you know, the last two years have also been extraordinarily challenging for me on a personal level. Even as I’ve led DPA, I have had to grapple with multiple major life events, including surviving breast cancer and other family crises, all while raising a young child. 

Despite my commitment to DPA’s mission, all these events have forced me to reassess many aspects of my life, leading me to seek another job that is a better fit for me at this time. Over the next two months, I’ll focus on working with our senior management team and board chair to ensure a seamless transition. 

DPA is poised for tremendous success. We have an extremely strong senior management team, with deep expertise and connections to the movement, in place and outstanding staff across the organization, as well as a committed and highly expert board. We have clear strategies, goals, and priorities—including a number of exciting campaigns underway now—that set you up for great impact. Over the last year, we have also obtained a number of substantial multi-year grants, which go a long way toward securing the organization’s future. And in the short term, I will leave DPA in the hands of an interim executive director who has outstanding experience as a long-time executive director and interim ED in many settings, including most recently at Lambda Legal.

I continue to hold the core belief that brought me to this job: that ending the war on drugs is critical to addressing many of the social injustices on which I have worked throughout my career, both in the United States and globally. And there is no group that has done as much, as effectively and as consistently, as DPA to end the drug war and to build out an alternative approach to drugs, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. Its contributions are invaluable.

I’m convinced that DPA’s future is bright, and I will continue cheering you on, and helping in any way I can.

With affection, admiration, and thanks,