Melissa is the Director of Civil Systems Reform and works to expose the insidious ways the drug war has contaminated spaces far beyond the criminal legal system. Her work leading this new department for DPA fights how draconian drug war policies destabilize people’s lives, separate families, and deny people resources in everyday systems like employment, housing, family regulation system, immigration, education, and public benefits. She also works to create momentum for concrete policy proposals that begin to dismantle the drug war in all its forms and remove its culture of criminalization from our lives.
Melissa’s prior work at DPA centered on shifting New York’s approach to drug policy and repairing the harms that the War on Drugs has caused to individuals and communities, particularly through her work leading the Start SMART campaign to legalize marijuana through the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), campaign for overdose prevention centers (OPCs, also called safer consumption spaces), and contributions to the EndOverdoseNY campaign. Melissa has also been deeply involved in police accountability work through the Communities United for Police Reform coalition and criminal legal system issues through multiple policy tables. She has been invited to give keynotes and has delivered testimony at municipal and state government hearings.
Melissa’s nearly two decades of experience managing media and campaign strategy for progressive nonprofits focused on criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, poverty, community-led international development, and resource rights shape her role at Drug Policy Alliance. Melissa’s experiences growing up in Los Angeles and seeing firsthand the devastation wrought by the War on Drugs motivated her to join the Drug Policy Alliance.
Melissa’s expertise and views on drug policy issues have been featured by CNN, AP, the New York Times, The Hill, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, POLITICO, CBS News, NBC News, Newsweek, Times-Union, and more. In 2021 she was named one of Crain’s NY Business 50 Most Powerful Women in New York.