Leading Drug Policy Reformers to be Honored at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver on Saturday, October 26

Press Release October 14, 2013
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<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Tommy McDonald&nbsp; 510-229-5215</p>

DENVER—Leading advocates for alternatives to the war on drugs will be honored at an awards ceremony on Saturday, October 26, at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver. The conference is being organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to the drug war, and is co-sponsored by dozens of other reform organizations. For a complete list, visit: www.reformconference.org.

"Every political movement for freedom and justice has its heroes, yet only a select few ever win the recognition they deserve," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "These awards honor those who have made extraordinary commitments, both publicly and behind the scenes, to advancing more sensible and humane ways of dealing with drugs in our society."

Below are the distinguished award recipients:

In 2011, Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker, George Shultz and Richard Branson joined former heads of state Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), César Gaviria (Colombia), Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), George Papandreou (Greece), Ruth Dreifuss (Switzerland) and other distinguished members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in saying the time had come to “break the taboo” on exploring alternatives to the failed war on drugs – encouraging not just decriminalization but also “experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs,” especially marijuana. The Global Commission, which built on the work of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, provoked unprecedented interest and debate about drug policy reform, not just in Europe and the Americas but even in Asia and Africa. Many of the Global Commission’s recommendations have been embraced by a growing number of former presidents and distinguished world leaders – and even by current heads of state in Latin America. The Commission, whose membership has expanded to include former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland), Jorge Sampaio (Portugal) and Ricardo Lagos (Chile), continues to play a powerful role both behind the scenes and in the public eye.

Alison Holcomb was the primary author of marijuana legalization Initiative 502 and campaign director for New Approach Washington, the committee that secured I-502’s passage by a 56-44 percent margin. As the ACLU of Washington’s Criminal Justice Director, she has successfully advocated for legislative and regulatory improvements to Washington’s medical marijuana law, adoption of the second 911 Good Samaritan overdose prevention law in the nation, and creation of Seattle and King County’s groundbreaking Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program that has reframed police thinking about drug use and public safety. Before joining the ACLU in 2006, Holcomb litigated drug, civil asset forfeiture, and civil rights cases in state and federal court for thirteen years.

Steve Fox has played a significant role in reshaping the marijuana movement and advancing the marijuana industry. In 2005, he co-founded SAFER in Colorado and later, for MPP, served as the de facto campaign manager of the historic 2012 Amendment 64 campaign in that state. He also co-founded the National Cannabis Industry Association, which currently represents more than 300 state-legal businesses, and serves as a strategic advisor to the organization. He is currently the principal at Marijuana Strategies, a marijuana policy consulting firm.

Mason Tvert co-directed the campaign in support of Amendment 64, the historic 2012 ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Colorado, and he led the successful 2005 and 2007 initiative campaigns in Denver to remove all penalties for adult marijuana possession and designate it the city's lowest law enforcement priority. He is also the co-founder of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), and co-author of Marijuana Is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? The Denver Post named Mason Colorado’s "Top Thinker of 2012" in the category of politics and government. He is currently the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Brian Vicente, Esq., served as the co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign and was one of the primary authors of this historic measure, which resulted in Colorado becoming the first state in the nation – and the first geographic area in the world – to make the possession, use, and regulated distribution of marijuana legal for adults. Brian also serves as executive director of Sensible Colorado, the state’s leading non-profit working for medical marijuana patients and providers. He is a founding member of Vicente Sederberg, LLC, a law firm providing legal solutions for the medical marijuana community.

Phil Smith has written more on the war on drugs than anyone else in the United States, if not the world.  He has served as writer and editor of the Drug War Chronicle newsletter since May 2000, where he has turned out 6,500 hundred separate articles and 1,500 feature stories.  He was the first to break the news about California’s then-Governor Schwarzenegger signing a marijuana decriminalization bill as well as many other notable drug policy headlines.  He has reported from the opium fields of Afghanistan and the coca fields of Bolivia and Peru, as well as the U.S.-Mexico border and the mean streets of North American cities from Vancouver to Washington, DC.

Paul Armentano’s prolific and insightful writing and research on all things marijuana-related have appeared in over 750 publications, scholarly and/or peer-reviewed journals, including The New York Times, Medscape, Drug Testing & Analysis, Congressional Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Times, as well as in more than a dozen textbooks and anthologies. He is the author of the book Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis (NORML Foundation, 2007, updated 2011, 2012), which reviews over 200 clinical and preclinical studies assessing the therapeutic properties of marijuana and its organic compounds. Armentano also provides online content to TheAnswerPage.com, an online medical educational resource founded in 1998 that provides daily education to healthcare professionals in 120 countries, as well as CME credit. He co-authored Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green), which has been licensed and translated internationally. He is currently the deputy director of NORML, where he has worked for the past eighteen years.

Steph Sherer is the founder and executive director of the nation’s leading medical cannabis patient advocacy organization, Americans for Safe Access. She is also a medical cannabis patient with over seventeen years of experience serving and managing non-profit and community organizations. Steph has taken on the issue of safe access and patient rights for millions. Her unwavering dedication to this cause started with one ASA office in Oakland in 2002. Now, there is an office in DC, 16 active ASA chapters and a grassroots base of over 50,000 members. Steph has spearheaded many instrumental projects in her ongoing effort to help ensure that grassroots advocates share their knowledge, skills, and tools. In 2011, ASA’s Foundation began working with the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) to create standards for the newly emerging medical cannabis industry in the form of recommendations for regulators.

Lorenzo Jones is the executive director of the Connecticut-based A Better Way Foundation (ABWF), an organization dedicated to ending draconian drug policies. He is a longtime community organizer who has spent over 20 years building winning campaigns and training advocates, community leaders, and not-for-profit staffers across the U.S. and Europe.  Before joining ABWF, Mr. Jones organized successful local and statewide campaigns that improved access to healthcare and drug treatment; established one of Connecticut’s first pretrial diversion programs for nonviolent offenses; and fostered innovative, comprehensive reform-oriented partnerships between city and state officials and community stakeholders.  Since 2005, under Mr. Jones’ leadership, ABWF has become one of the most prominent and successful community-based reform organizations in the country by winning campaigns to roll back mandatory minimums; prevent accidental overdose fatalities; require racial and ethnic impact statements on criminal justice and drug policy legislation; pass medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization bills; remove barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people; and more.

Serviço de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Aditivos e nas Dependências (SICAD) is an agency in Portugal’s Ministry of Health that is directly responsible for the implementation of the country’s national drug strategy. Its mission is to promote the reduction of harms related to drug misuse and drug addiction. In 2001, Portugal enacted one of the most extensive drug law reforms in the world when it decriminalized low-level possession and use of all illegal drugs and significantly expanded treatment and harm reduction services, including access to sterile syringes, methadone maintenance therapy and other medication-assisted treatments. After more than a decade, the Portuguese experience demonstrates that decriminalization – alongside a serious investment in treatment and harm reduction services – can significantly improve public safety and health.

Dr. João Castel-Branco Goulão is the general director of SICAD and the Portuguese national drug coordinator. He was a member of the Portuguese committee that prepared the 1998 report on which the first Portuguese drug strategy, which included decriminalization, was based. Dr. Goulão has been centrally involved in both crafting and implementing Portugal’s health-based drug policies and has been invited to present on the Portuguese model in numerous other countries. Dr. Goulão has also served as the Chairman of the Management Board of the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction since 2010.

Serving a community of 635,000 people, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has been at the forefront of health-centered innovation in drug law enforcement. Policing in Seattle is based on four cornerstones: Justice, Excellence, Humility and Harm Reduction. SPD has long supported the expansion of access to sterile syringes and other harm reduction interventions. With the passage of Initiative 502, which legalized the production, distribution, sale and non-medical use of marijuana in Washington State, SPD won national acclaim for its commitment to help ensure the new law’s successful implementation, spearheading a public education campaign to inform residents of, and encourage voluntary compliance with, the new law.  SPD is currently piloting the first pre-booking diversion program in the country, known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Under the LEAD program, instead of arresting and booking people for minor drug law violations, including possession and low-level sales, police can immediately direct them to drug treatment or other supportive services, bypassing the criminal justice system entirely. Under Chief Jim Pugel, this program will be expanding from two neighborhoods to all of downtown Seattle.

Founded in 1998 by Emanuel Sferios, DanceSafe promotes health and safety within the electronic music and nightlife community. DanceSafe has two fundamental operating principles: harm reduction and popular education. Combining these two principles has enabled the organization to create successful, peer-based educational programs to reduce drug misuse and empower young people to make healthy, informed lifestyle choices. DanceSafe is known for bringing adulterant screening to the rave and nightlife community in the U.S., and for distributing unbiased educational literature describing the effects and risks associated with the use of various drugs at electronic music events and other festivals. DanceSafe prides itself on providing a non-judgmental perspective to help support people who use drugs in making informed decisions about their health.

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

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