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Our Programs

Ten members of Congress spoke at a 2002 press conference we organized calling for repeal of a law denying college aid to students because of drug convictions. Pictured: Rep. (now Sen.) Tammy Baldwin at podium, with Reps. Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush, Elijah Cummings and Rob Andrews. has current programs of focus including global drug policy at the UN; human rights advocacy on extrajudicial killings in the Philippine drug war, expanding to more rule of law issues affecting drug policy; research and advocacy on armed robberies of state-legal marijuana stores; and the Drug War Chronicle newsletter.

In 2014 we began work related to the April 2016 "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem" (UNGASS), organizing a coalition of hundreds of NGOs, as well as some businesses, calling for a human rights-based approach to global drug policy. The statement also argued the case for revision of the UN drug control treaties in a time when nations are moving toward legalization systems, as well as justifying legalization moves on the basis of human rights even in advance of treaty reform.

Major NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union were among the signatories of our sign-on statement for UNGASS and a sign-on letter addressed to President Obama. We also organized a teleconference for media featuring legislators from Canada and Mexico on prospects for marijuana legalization in those countries. story on our
UNGASS coalition statement

In March 2017 we organized a side event on extrajudicial killings in the drug war, focusing on the situation in the Philippines, at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines sent a speech by video for the event, which criticized the killings and other aspects of President Duterte's drug policies. (Robredo was attacked in the media by the president's spokesperson and by the Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, among others, leading to a high-profile but unsuccessful drive to impeach her.)

We have continued our advocacy on the Philippines since that time, and expanded it to other countries suffering Duterte-imitation drug war killings. We are working to expand it to a more general drug policy and rule of law program. As part of this we participate with other NGOs in efforts with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and the GloMag Coalition.

In December 2022 we published the report, authored by our executive director David Borden, "Dangerous Delays: What Washington (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies." Dangerous Delays is the first published study of characteristics armed robberies targeting state-legal marijuana stores. It aims to help secure passage of the SAFE Banking Act, while informing Congress, advocates and communities on what more will be needed to protect marijuana store workers from robberies.

HISTORY: From 1998 through 2006, organized a nationwide campaign to repeal a law that delays or denies college aid to students because of drug convictions. Much of our work on that campaign consisted of building a national coalition made up of hundreds of organizations opposed to the law. Also as part of the student aid/drug conviction campaign, sponsored the John W. Perry Fund scholarship program to assist students affected by the law.

In late 1998, the organization launched the Higher Education Act Reform (HEA) Campaign, opposing a law passed that year taking financial aid away from students because of drug convictions. Ten members of Congress participated in a press conference organized in 2002 by DRCNet under the umbrella of the Coalition for Higher Education Reform, a record still in place for a drug policy reform press conference.

The coalition achieved a partial reform to the law in 2006, when it was limited to offenses committed while a student is in school and receiving federal aid – one of only a few scale-backs to the federal drug war to date. A further reform that would have further limited the law's reach to sales convictions passed the House of Representatives, but the section of the education package that contained the language was removed when Democrats combined it with health care reform in 2010 as part of their strategy to pass both bills. In 2020 the law was fully repealed as part of the December COVID relief and spending bill.

Through the HEA campaign, together with outreach on our email list and the work of our staff and student partners, we launched Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) into an independent national organization. Media outreach conducted jointly by the two organizations from 1999 through 2002 garnered coverage in most national media outlets. also sponsored a scholarship fund supporting students losing aid under the law, the John W. Perry Fund, honoring a widely admired police officer who lost his life at the World Trade Center, who had been active in the drug policy reform movement.