Ira Glasser to Receive Top Award at International Drug Policy Reform Conference for Leadership in Drug Policy Reform for Nearly 50 Years

Press Release November 11, 2015
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman (646)335-5384<br />
Tommy McDonald (510) 338-8827</p>

D.C. Metro Area —The Richard J Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform will be awarded to Ira Glasser at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on November 21, 2015, in Arlington, VA.

Ira Glasser will be honored for being a leader in drug policy reform for nearly 50 years, beginning in 1967 when he joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).  He directed that organization from 1970 to 1978, when he became the executive director of the ACLU, retiring in 2001. Ira joined the board of the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) in the early 1990s, becoming its chairman some years later, and played a key role in the merger of DPF and The Lindesmith Center in 2000 to create the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

He has served as chairman of DPA’s board ever since, providing wise counsel and leadership, mentoring staff at all levels, and educating and inspiring countless activists with his unique capacity to place the drug policy reform movement in the historical context of other great political struggles for personal freedom and social justice. His sustained and pivotal contributions to drug policy reform in the United States are both exceptional and unparalleled.

“Ira is truly one of the great pioneers of drug policy reform,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “It’s not just that he’s been at it for roughly fifty years, and involved in leadership roles at the ACLU and DPA throughout this time.  It’s that he realized early on that drug policy reform was not just a pivotal civil liberties and rights issue but also a matter of sensible criminal justice, public health, economic and foreign policy.

“We’ve long observed the rule that no achievement awards be given to people while they were serving on DPA’s board, but in this case I am delighted that both DPA’s board members and staff decided to make this important exception.   Ira has been my partner in leading and building DPA since our origins.  I couldn’t have done it without him.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war, bestows the biennial Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform to a group or individuals who most epitomize loyal opposition to drug war extremism. Previous recipients include: The Global Commission on Drug Policy, John Sperling, former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, and Rev. Howard Moody.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference, co-hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance in Arlington, VA from Nov. 18-21, 2015, brings together more than 1200 leading international experts, treatment providers, researchers, policymakers and key activists at the leading global forum on drug policy reform. For more information or to register for the conference, please visit:

For complete list of award honorees, please visit:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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