The Drug Policy Alliance board of directors announced today its unanimous decision to appoint Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno as the organization’s new executive director.
McFarland Sánchez-Moreno brings nearly thirteen years of international and domestic drug policy experience from her work at Human Rights Watch, where she currently serves as Co-Director of the US Program.
McFarland Sánchez-Moreno will succeed Drug Policy Alliance founder and former executive director Ethan Nadelmann, who stepped down on May 1st, after 17 years.
Ira Glasser, Drug Policy Alliance board president, said, “We are excited to have found someone with such passion to reverse and remedy the destructive effects of the drug war, and with the knowledge, experience and persistence to do it.”
McFarland Sánchez-Moreno’s commitment to social justice and drug policy reform dates from her childhood, which she spent mostly in Peru. She was strongly influenced by her early work at Human Rights Watch researching Colombia, where drug profits fueled massacres and official corruption. In her current position, McFarland Sánchez-Moreno leads a team advocating against racial discrimination in policing, excessive sentencing, and unfair deportation policies that tear families apart, all issues closely intertwined with the United States’ cruel and irrational approach to drugs.
During her tenure at Human Rights Watch, McFarland Sánchez-Moreno pressed the organization to more directly address the war on drugs as a human rights issue. As a result, in 2013 Human Rights Watch became the first major international human rights organization to call for decriminalization of the personal use and possession of drugs and global drug reform more broadly.
“The war on drugs is a root cause of many of the injustices I have fought throughout my career,” said McFarland Sánchez-Moreno. “I’m both honored and delighted to now take on the cause of ending the war on drugs, as part of an organization that has already been behind groundbreaking reforms in the U.S. and abroad.”
McFarland Sánchez-Moreno assumes the helm of the Drug Policy Alliance at a paradoxical moment in the fight against the war on drugs. In multiple states, marijuana legalization is moving forward rapidly, and there is bipartisan support for reducing the numbers of people behind bars and promoting health-based approaches to reducing the harms of drugs. At the federal level, on the other hand, the new administration is doubling down on the war on drugs, with the president calling for greater enforcement of draconian drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences, arguing for greater use of private prisons, rejecting the restoration of voting rights for the millions of Americans living with a felony conviction, supporting unconstitutional “stop and frisk” policing, and even claiming that building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border would alleviate the recent surge in opioid overdoses.
“We cannot allow fearmongering, ignorance, and dishonesty about drugs to drive policy in the United States,” said McFarland Sánchez-Moreno. “At this critical time, the Drug Policy Alliance’s mission of educating the public and policymakers, and advocating for a rational, compassionate approach to drugs, is more important than ever.”
McFarland Sánchez-Moreno is regularly quoted and published in national and international media and is a native speaker of both English and Spanish. She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions and has extensive experience advocating with U.S. Congressional offices, the White House, and the Departments of State, Justice and Defense. McFarland Sánchez-Moreno recently authored a non-fiction book, There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia, which will be published by Nation Books in February 2018.
A high-resolution headshot of Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno is available here.
About the Drug Policy Alliance
The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.
The Drug Policy Alliance believes the war on drugs is doing more harm than good, advances policies that reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and seeks solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies. The Drug Policy Alliance works to ensure that our nation’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions – particularly young people and people of color who are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
Drug Policy Alliance supporters come from all walks of life, and its Honorary Board includes prominent figures from both ends of the political spectrum, including individuals renowned for their leadership in the fields of business, law, medicine, media and politics– from Sting, Russell Simmons and Arianna Huffington to a former U.S. secretary of state, secretary of defense, surgeon general, attorney general, and chairman of the Federal Reserve.