Drug Policy Foundation (DPF)

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The Drug Policy Foundation (4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC) is a not-for-profit organization established to stimulate debate about drug policy in the United States and to oppose the current "war on drugs" approach. It favors shifting from policies emphasizing law enforcement and drug prohibition to ones that either legalize drug use entirely or at least medicalize the distribution of certain drugs. Founded in 1986 by Arnold Trebach, a lawyer and professor at American University in Washington, DC, the foundation reports that its membership had grown to more than 24,000 by 2000. The Drug Policy Foundation has merged with the Lindesmith Center to become the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation and is now known by the acronym TLC-DPF. The Lindesmith Center is located in New York City (400 West 59th Street). The Lindesmith CenterDrug Policy Foundation's director is Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, who has taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities and lectured throughout the world on drug policy and international law enforcement.

In 2000 the board members included Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the United States; Nicholas Pastore, fellow at the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation; Hon. Robert W. Sweet, Senior Judge for the Southern District of New York and Danny Sugarman, manager of the musical group the Doors and author of several books.

The guiding principle of the organization is harm reduction, an alternative approach to drug policy and treatment that focuses on minimizing the adverse effects of both drug use and drug prohibition. TLC-DPF is deeply involved in educating Americans and others about alternatives to current drug policies on issues ranging from marijuana and adolescent drug use to illicit drug addiction, the spread of infectious diseases, policing drug markets and alternatives to incarceration. It promotes drug policies based on common sense, science, public health and human rights. Particular attention is focused on analyzing the experiences of foreign countries in reducing drug-related harms.

TLC-DPF's policy priorities are predicated on the premise that the current drug war is excessive and ineffective in creating a safer or healthier society. The policy areas include: improving drug education and prevention, especially for young people; ending civil asset forfeiture; shifting current practices away from drug testing toward impairment testing when appropriate; and decriminalizing marijuana.

The organization also administers a grant program that distributes approximately $1.5 million every year to drug policy reform efforts both within the United States and abroad. Since its inception, the grant program has given over $4 million to 306 drug policy reform organizations worldwide. TLC-DPF awards its grants to a wide variety of drug reform organizations, including those that specialize in criminal justice, drug policy, harm reduction, medical marijuana, methadone maintenance, and syringe exchange. TLC-DPF provides three types of funding: project, general support, and technical assistance. For example, in 1998, Positive Health Project (PHP), a Manhattan-based harm reduction agency, received a grant to design and implement New York City's first syringe-exchange media campaign. Using a social marketing firm, PHP designed an ad promoting the value and availability of syringe-exchange services in New York City which was placed inside 1,140 N.Y.C. subway cars for 1 month. The primary goals of the campaign were to educate drug users about the importance of HIV prevention through syringe exchange and thereby increase the use of syringe exchange throughout the city.

The Lindesmith Center Library, located in New York City, is a rapidly growing library housing one of the largest collections on drugs and drug policy in the world. It contains over 10,000 books, reports, government documents, periodicals, videos, and articles from the U.S. and abroad as well as in-depth collections on drug-related policies in Canada, Latin America, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Australia. The library also maintains an online library at www.lindesmith.org/library/lib.html.

The Drug Policy Foundation sponsors annual conferences, at which speakers discuss their perspectives on current drug policy, and has enlisted in its cause many individuals prominent in public life. For example, the Thirteenth Annual Conference on International Drug Reform was held in Washington, D.C. in May 2000.

Aside from advocating public policy, the foundation has a legal affairs office that uses the court system to promote change. For example, the office serves as counsel in a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of California physicians and patients to enjoin the federal government from penalizing doctors who recommend medical marijuana to seriously ill patients. The foundation also serves as a consultant to county and state agencies in California to design procedures by which seriously ill people can safely obtain and use medical marijuana.

The organization publishes a bi-monthly newsletter. The Drug Policy Letter, and the Drug Policy Foundation Press publishes books and papers that support viewpoints of the foundation. The DPF also receives support from several other foundations not ordinarily associated with the advocacy of drug legalization, such as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A major contributor since 1992 has been the Open Society Foundation, a charitable organization that receives its funding from the financier George Soros.

(See also: Prevention Movement ; Policy Alternatives )


THE Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation web Site. (2000). www.dpf.org.

Jerome H. Jaffe

Revised by Frederick K. Grittner

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Drug Policy Foundation (DPF)

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