Leading Drug Policy Reformers to be Honored at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, November 21

Press Release November 8, 2015
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<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
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Arlington, VA — Leading advocates for drug policy reform will be honored at an awards ceremony on Saturday, November 21, at the biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Arlington, VA. 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:

Ira Glasser has been a leader in drug policy reform for almost fifty 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.

Mark Golding, Minister of Justice of Jamaica, has law degrees from Oxford University, Norman Manley Law School and the University of London and served in Jamaica’s Senate from 2007 to 2011 before becoming Minister of Justice in January 2012. Minister Golding played a pivotal role in Jamaica’s sweeping marijuana reforms earlier this year, which included the decriminalization of possession for personal use, as well as for religious, scientific and medical purposes. He has become a global advocate for broad drug policy reform and lessening the harms of penal policy and drug prohibition. Minister Golding is committed to inclusiveness, and has been working to ensure that Jamaica’s traditional marijuana growers are granted a space in the new system.

Eugene Jarecki is the acclaimed documentarian behind Why We Fight, Reagan, and The Trials of Henry Kissinger, among many others – and he is receiving the Brecher award for the incredible impact of his film, The House I Live In. The film has done wonders in advancing public understanding of the devastating impact of the drug war and mass incarceration in the U.S.  It generated enormous buzz from the moment it won the Sundance Film festival award for Best Documentary.  Eugene then used his film to build our movement by organizing more than 100 showings all over the country, including events behind bars. Eugene brought in celebrities to co-produce the film like Brad Pitt, John Legend, Russell Simmons, and Danny Glover to give it an extra bounce. Jarecki’s work generated an avalanche of national media coverage reaching millions about the need to end our disastrous war on drugs.

Robin Room directs the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He previously directed inter-disciplinary centers for the study of alcohol and other drugs in Sweden, Canada and the US. Professor Room studies drinking and other drug use, and the social and policy responses to use and problems. He co-authored in recent years Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate, Roadmaps to Reforming the UN Drug Conventions, and Drug Policy and the Public Good.  Robin’s extraordinary and prolific scholarship over the past fifty years, driven by both his profound curiosity and a commitment to dealing with drug use and problems in ways consistent with scientific evidence, compassion and human rights, have powerfully informed and bolstered the global movement for drug policy reform.

VOCAL-NY is one of the most effective grassroots membership organizations in the country. They weave together a broad range of social justice issues, including working to end the war on drugs. They have helped reduce New York’s unconstitutional and racially-biased marijuana arrests, raised awareness about overdose prevention, and restored the rights of formerly incarcerated people. Their organizing model, centered around the leadership and voices of those most impacted and those most stigmatized – people who use drugs, people living with HIV/AIDS, people of color, people who are formerly or currently incarcerated, or people who live in low-income communities – makes VOCAL-NY vital to the conscience of our movement.

For nearly two decades Gretchen Burns Bergman has brought one of the most authentic and pained voices to the forefront of drug policy reform: those of parents whose children have struggled or perished because of addiction and our nation’s failed war on drugs. In a world that often stigmatizes parents into silence, Gretchen has raised her call to compassion ever more loudly and clearly. The work she undertook as founder and leader of A New PATH, played a critical role in defining campaigns in California, beginning with Prop 36 in 2000 and most recently with Prop 47 last year.  And for the last five years, Gretchen has led Moms United, a national call to action for mothers who know that while drugs can be harmful, nothing is more harmful than the way our society treats its children who use them. Consistent, courageous, compassionate: Gretchen Burns Bergman not only represents the best we have in committed partnership, but the best we have in committed motherhood.

Dan Bigg is being honored for his life-saving work expanding access to naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. He helped found the Chicago Recovery Alliance in 1992 and has been the director ever since, expanding the practice of harm reduction in Chicago and around the world and defining recovery as “any positive change.” He is the instigator of community-distributed naloxone in the United States and responsible for saving the lives of tens of thousands of people. His career has been marked by his unwavering dedication to assisting people who use drugs in doing everything they can to improve their health, safety, and overall wellbeing.

Over the course of his 33-year law enforcement career, Neill Franklin watched hardworking and dedicated fellow police die in the line of fire enforcing policies that don’t do any good. He spent 23 years with the Maryland State Police, including as an undercover agent and as the head trainer for drug enforcement, before being recruited by the Baltimore Police Department to reorganize its education and training division. As executive director of LEAP since 2010, Franklin has led an extraordinary collection of police, judges, prosecutors, prison superintendents, DEA agents, and others advocating for drug policy reforms by sharing their personal stories about serving on the front lines of the war on drugs.  Neill’s courageous journey, and the conviction and compassion he carries with him, have made an immense impact on countless lives and on drug policy reform in the U.S. and abroad.

Jerome E. Beck has been a pioneer in harm reduction drug education for 40 years. In the 1970s, he co-created the University of Oregon Drug Information Center (DIC)—a first of its kind, safety-oriented approach for diverse audiences. After earning a doctorate from UC Berkeley, he returned to his home state of Oregon, where he is currently working to prepare a new generation of drug educators who will need to tackle prevention in the era of legalization. Jerry is a prolific writer who has contributed significantly to the literature on drug education. He recently wrote  a comprehensive history and analysis of the state of prevention in the US and abroad for the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and is now completing a follow-up to his seminal piece, “100 Years of ‘Just Say No’ vs. ‘Just Say Know’: Reevaluating Drug Education Goals for the Coming Century.”  Perhaps Jerry’s most well-known contribution to the drug education literature is the seminal 1994 book, Pursuit of Ecstasy: The MDMA Experience, which he authored with Marsha Rosenbaum.

Charles Ries, the founder of UpFront Programs, has been exploring the relationship between drugs, the individual, and society for the last 45 years, including a decade in the Oakland High School Student Assistance Program. Chuck is a tireless advocate for honest, science-based, harm reduction drug education, with  UpFront the model for innovative, reality-based prevention. In addition to providing comprehensive information about drugs, UpFront respects students, whose life experiences are an integral part of the learning process. To the benefit of countless emerging educators, Chuck has produced a replicable curriculum as well as a training manual.  For activists in the field of drug education, Chuck’s UpFront program is THE “go-to” resource, featured prominently in DPA’s Beyond Zero Tolerance publications and numerous educational films.

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

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