VOCAL-NY and Gretchen Burns Bergman to Receive Activist Award at International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Press Release November 12, 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 Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action in the Field of Drug Policy Reform will be awarded to VOCAL-NY and Gretchen Burns Bergman at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on November 21, 2015, in Arlington, VA.

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.

“VOCAL-NY is a powerful model of effective community organizing,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The people most impacted by our country’s policies are leading the charge and winning legislative victories on a range of issues, from reducing racist marijuana arrests to helping formerly incarcerated folks get jobs by “Banning the Box” on applications.”

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.

“Gretchen is an amazing mother, advocate and organizer,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance. “She knows first-hand the impact of addiction and incarceration on families as her sons have struggled with problematic drug use and spent time behind bars. Gretchen is on a mission to help mothers and others use their voices and moral authority to demand an end to our country’s failed war on drugs.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war, bestows the biennial Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action in the Field of Drug Policy Reform to honor citizens who make democracy work in the difficult area of drug law and policy reform. Previous recipients include: Lorenzo Jones, Executive Director, A Better Way Foundation & Steph Sherer, Founder & Executive Director, Americans for Safe Access; Dale Gieringer, state director of California NORML; Dorsey E. Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, co-founder of All of Us or None and Critical Resistance; Howard Lotsof, discoverer of ibogaine's antiaddictive effects, patient activist, president of Dora Weiner Foundation and author of the Ibogaine Patient's Bill of Rights; and Deborah Small, executive director, Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs.

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: www.reformconference.org.

For complete list of award honorees, please visit: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2015/11/leading-drug-policy-reformers-be-honored-international-drug-policy-reform-conference-wa

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

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