Drug Policy Alliance Honors Groundbreaking Work In Drug Policy Reform

By Keri Blakinger 11/23/15

Many gathered to honor those whose work has advanced more humane ways of dealing with addiction.

Ira Glasser
Ira Glasser. Photo via

Movers and shakers in the field of drug policy reform gathered last week for an award ceremony at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington, D.C.

The November 21 event was organized by the Drug Policy Alliance and it honored those who have done groundbreaking work in drug policy reform.

"Every political movement for freedom and justice has its heroes, yet only a select few ever win the recognition they deserve," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a press release prior to the event. "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."

The list of awardees included the crème de la crème of drug reformers:

Former ACLU director Ira Glasser, who headed up the organization for more than two decades, was one award recipient. After his retirement from the ACLU in 2001, Glasser joined the board of the Drug Policy Foundation and later oversaw its merger with The Lindesmith Center to create the Drug Policy Alliance in 2000. He’s been the DPA board chair ever since. He was given the Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform.

Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding was honored with the Justice Gerald Le Dain Award for Achievement in the Field of Law. Golding played a key role in the island nation’s recent marijuana reforms and has been a strong voice for decriminalizing drugs.

Eugene Jarecki, director of the highly acclaimed film The House I Live In, received an award for achievement in the field of media.

The Director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University in Australia, Robin Room, was bestowed an award for scholarship for his publications on cannabis policy and global drug policy.

VOCAL-NY, a harm reduction organization in New York City, and Gretchen Burns Bergman, leader of Moms United, received awards for their work in the field of citizen action.

Jerome Beck, co-creator of the University of Oregon Drug Information Center, and UpFront Programs founder Charles Ries received awards for their work in drug education and in combating the use of ineffective scare tactics.

Neill Franklin, founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, was presented with the H.B. Spear Award, given to those in law enforcement who have shown compassion and understanding in the realm of drug policy.

Dan Bigg, who helped found the Chicago Recovery Alliance in 1992, was honored with an achievement award for his work in expanding access to naloxone.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.