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The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) was formed in 2000 as the merger of the Drug Policy Foundation, a grant-making non-profit, and the Lindesmith Center, an Open Society Institute project funded by hedge fund billionaire and former Nazi collaborator George Soros. Headquartered in New York City, with offices in five states and Washington, D.C., DPA is one of a plethora of well-funded drug legalization advocacy groups. Others include the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
Reason for Surveillance
According to its website, DPA "envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights . . . and in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more." Its mission is "to advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies."
DPA pursues these objectives primarily through an array of communication strategies. For example, it promotes ballot initiatives for changing drug laws at all levels, publishes drug education materials for teens, and conducts media campaigns aimed at changing public opinion. Arguments are usually variations on a few liberal-sounding slogans such as: The war on drugs results in mass incarceration and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars; Drug laws unfairly affect women, minorities, and people of color; Users are going to use anyway, so we should cut our drug-war losses; and, Legalization is a humanitarian struggle for freedom and liberty. In its advocacy, DPA speaks much of "human rights" and "harm reduction."
Human rights and harm reduction are certainly noble ideals, but what DPA actually pushes for is the removal of all barriers, legal and social, to all uses of all drugs—in other words, full-on legalization. In 2013, DPA Director of Media Relations Tony Newman wrote, "My colleagues and I at the Drug Policy Alliance are committed to ensuring [that] the decriminalization of all drug use becomes a political priority."
This, we are to believe, is compassion? This is the way to health and harm reduction? No, the bad faith behind DPA advocacy can be seen through Newman's own backdoor admission that using is harmful, which he acknowledged when he argued in the very same article that, "as long as drug use is a crime, people are going to be afraid to get help."
So, we might ask, which is it that users really need? Unencumbered access to drugs? Or help getting off drugs? Certainly there is room for improving laws in order to reduce harm, but to push for full-on legalization under the guise of compassion and harm reduction stretches credulity and more closely aligns DPA with drug pushers than with policy advisors.
Most Recent Offense
In May 2015, DPA broadcast a webinar on "Expanding Harm Reduction Through Human Rights." Holly Bradford, one of the four presenters and Program Coordinator for the San Francisco Drug Users Union (SFDUU), talked up drug user empowerment and made a case for so-called Supervised Injection Facilities (SIFs) run by users. (No word on who would pay for the supplies and services.) One of the benefits she mentioned of an SFDUU site was that, "We came together to support each other and to grieve our members when they died."
Certainly compassion should move us to help meet the needs of drug users. But straightforward, evidence-based thinking also tells us that removing all barriers to drug use neither helps users nor reduces harm. Unless all they need is someone to support them in their dying. •
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