Leading Drug Policy Reformers to be Honored at Landmark International Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Mexico on November 13, 2009

Press Release November 11, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384

Leading advocates for sensible alternatives to the war on drugs will be honored at an awards ceremony on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conference is being organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization promoting alternatives to the drug war, along with 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:

Donald MacPherson is the winner of the Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform. This award is given to the individuals who most epitomize loyal opposition to drug war extremism.

MacPherson, former Drug Policy Advisor to four successive mayors of Vancouver, Canada, steered the city’s drug policy for 12 years until stepping down last month. Under MacPherson’s leadership, Vancouver developed and implemented the city’s pioneering Four Pillars Drug Strategy, which focuses on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. First launched in 2000, the Four Pillars approach became an international model for innovative, effective drug policy that addresses drug use and addiction as a health issue rather a criminal matter. Achievements include the opening in 2003 of North America’s first supervised injection site for heroin addicts; the 2005 launch of a program comparing the effectiveness of prescribed heroin maintenance treatment to methadone treatment; and a significant expansion of addiction services throughout Vancouver. These reforms resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver and in the transmission of disease among IV drug users.

Montel Williams is the winner of the Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in the Field of Journalism. This award honors those in the media who question official drug war propaganda.

Williams, a medical marijuana patient/advocate and host of the nationally syndicated daily radio program Montel Across America, suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses medical marijuana to relieve chronic nerve pain. Since going public with his medical marijuana use in late 2003, Williams has tirelessly campaigned for changes in state and federal laws to expand access to marijuana as a medicine. In addition to writing Climbing Higher, his 2004 autobiography that detailed his struggle with MS and the therapeutic effects of cannabis, Williams has hosted TV shows on the topic of medical marijuana, authored Op-Ed pieces in major newspapers and used his platform as a public figure to press legislators across the country to enact new drug policies based on compassion, reason and science. In particular, Williams traveled to state capitals in Albany, NY and Trenton, NJ, as well as Washington, D.C., to urge elected officials to pass medical marijuana legislation.

Dr. Jeffrey Miron is the winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship. This award recognizes scholars, like Alfred Lindesmith, whose personal courage and quality of published research constitute a source of rational inspiration for all who labor in drug policy scholarship.

Miron, renowned Harvard economist and a leading expert on international drug policy, has received international acclaim for his groundbreaking research into the economic and social effects of drug prohibition as well as the potential for alternative policies. Currently a senior lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvard’s Department of Economics, Miron has built a reputation as a staunch advocate for eliminating drug prohibition in order to curtail the systemic violence, enforcement costs and social harms associated with the war on drugs. His published works include “Violence and the U.S. Prohibitions of Drugs and Alcohol,” “Do Prohibitions Raise Prices?” and “The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition,” among other notable works. He is the author of three books, a prolific contributor to academic journals and news outlets including CNN, and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Howard Lotsof and Deborah Peterson Small are the recipients of the Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action. This award honors citizens who make democracy work in the difficult area of drug law and policy reform.

Lotsof has achieved worldwide recognition for his pioneering research into the effects of ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive plant compound. In 1962, Lotsof discovered that use of ibogaine can break the cycle of addiction for cocaine and heroin addicts — a breakthrough for which he was awarded a patent in 1985. Since his discovery, Lotsof has actively promoted the use of ibogaine to treat chemical dependency, as well as further research into the drug’s anti-addictive properties. In 1999, he co-authored “Treatment of Acute Opioid Withdrawal with Ibogaine” in The American Journal on Addictions. Lotsof is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates and president of the Dora Weiner Foundation.

Deborah Peterson Small is an attorney and executive director/founder of the national drug policy reform group Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs. Prior to founding Break the Chains, Small served as director of public policy at The Lindesmith Center and the Drug Policy Alliance from 1998-2003. The mission of Break the Chains is to educate, empower and encourage active engagement in drug policy reform among communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by punitive drug policies. Break the Chains has organized major conferences in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Houston and New York City to provide a platform for individuals to share their personal experiences and to connect the dots among the various constituencies affected by the drug war. Earlier this year, the New York Civil Liberties Union released a groundbreaking report co-authored by Small and Queens College sociology professor Harry G. Levine examining the reasons for and impact of the disproportionately high numbers of marijuana possession arrests in New York City, particularly in communities of color. The report — “The Marijuana Arrest Crusade in New York City: Racial Bias in Police Policy 1997-2007” — is the first ever in-depth study of misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations. Other recent Break the Chains initiatives include: an ongoing effort to eliminate the disparity in federal sentencing laws for crack vs. powder cocaine, and a 2005 collaboration with the Brennan Center for Justice and the Women’s Rights Division of the ACLU to produce a major report, “Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families.”

Dr. Martin Schechter is the recipient of the Norman E. Zinberg Award for Achievement in the Field of Medicine. This award recognizes medical and treatment experts who perform rigorous scientific research and who have the courage to report their findings even though they may be at odds with the current dogma.

Schechter, national director of the Canadian HIV Trials Network and a leader in addiction research, served as Principal Investigator for the NAOMI Project (North American Opiate Medication Initiative), a three-year-long clinical trial investigating the benefits of heroin-assisted therapy for people suffering from chronic opiate addictions who have not benefited from other treatments. Patients receiving heroin-assisted therapy in the NAOMI study showed improved health, reduced illegal activity and longer-term participation in treatment than when they were receiving standard addiction treatment. Results of the groundbreaking study were published in an August article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Schechter, a professor and director of the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, is recognized as a world leader in HIV/AIDS research, and he has lectured extensively on the topic. His areas of expertise also include the design and analysis of clinical trials, and he has published more than 100 articles in scientific journals, including The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, The Annals of Internal Medicine and the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Peter Christ is the H.B. Spear Award for Achievement in the Field of Control and Enforcement recipient. This award is given to those involved in law enforcement who have demonstrated a balanced regard for the needs of enforcement and human compassion.

Since co-founding the drug policy reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in 2002, former police captain Peter Christ has emerged as a leading voice in support of overhauling punitive drug policies in the United States and around the world. Christ, who retired from the Tonawanda, New York police force in 1989 and soon began speaking out against the drug war, modeled LEAP on the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. LEAP now boasts a solid roster of distinguished current and former members of law enforcement who regularly challenge current drug policies in a wide range of civic forums. As one of LEAP’s leading spokespersons, Christ has presented detailed drug war critiques to hundreds of civic, professional, educational and religious organizations, in addition to conducting television and radio interviews in dozens of markets.

Jeffrion L. Aubry is the Justice Gerald Le Dain Award for Achievement in the Field of Law winner. This award is given to those involved in law who have worked within official institutions when extremist pressures dominate government policies.

Aubry, a New York State Assemblyman and longtime champion of efforts to reform the state’s harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws, led this year’s successful fight to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for most low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. Aubry, who introduced bills to reform the Rockefeller laws in every legislative session since 1997, spearheaded the passage of legislation this year that returns discretion to judges to determine whether to divert individuals to treatment or probation instead of incarceration. The reforms, signed into law in April by New York Gov. David Paterson and enacted in October, signal a shift toward treating drug misuse as a public health issue rather a criminal justice matter.

Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum is the winner of the Dr. Andrew Weil Award for Achievement in the Field of Drug Education. This award recognizes those involved in drug education who have promoted honest, science-based drug education in place of ineffective scare tactics based on myths and deceit.

Rosenbaum, a leading expert on drug education and author of the influential resource guide Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens, Drugs, and Drug Education, has been a leading voice in drug policy reform for more than three decades. She is founder/director emerita of both the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Safety First Project. From 1977 to 1995, Rosenbaum served as principal investigator on National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded studies of heroin addiction, methadone maintenance treatment, MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine and drug use during pregnancy. In 2003, she organized the California Statewide Task Force on Effective Drug Education.

Rosenbaum is also a prolific author. She has published four resource guide booklets on drug education as well as three books: Women on Heroin; Pursuit of Ecstasy: The MDMA Experience (with Jerome E. Beck); and Pregnant Women on Drugs: Combating Stereotypes and Stigma (with Sheigla Murphy). In addition, she has published dozens of articles and opinion pieces in academic journals and major newspapers.

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

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