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Ethan Nadelmann to “Step Aside” at DPA

Ethan Nadelmann

On Jan. 27, Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), announced that he’s leaving his post as Executive Director as soon as April. Derek Hodel, the DPA’s former Deputy Executive Director, will head the organization while it conducts a search for Nadelmann’s replacement.

After founding the Lindesmith Center, Nadelmann started the DPA in 2000. A prominent voice in the national debate concerning the War on Drugs since 1993, his TED Talk has amassed about 1.5 million views, he’s a frequent speaker at conferences and trade shows and is widely quoted in mainstream media coverage of drug policy reform issues. In 2013, Rolling Stone called him “the Real Drug Czar.”

In a letter to DPA staffers announcing his departure, Nadelmann outlined some of the reasons for his resignation and what’s next for him:

“The time has come for me to step aside as Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance…. I’ve been thinking about making this transition for almost two years, for all sorts of reasons: passing the age at which my father died; the prospect of turning 60, as I will six weeks from now; my growing sense of multiple missions accomplished, as evidenced by transformations in public opinion, our political victories, and the rapid expansion of our organization and movement; and also, I must say, by a desire for new adventure and challenges. Even as I’ve imagined, with both trepidation and anticipation, different futures for myself, I’ve made no plans or commitments.”

Funded primarily by George Soros, the DPA has long advocated for sweeping changes in drug policy, from marijuana legalization to clean needles for addicts. In 2015, Nadelmann told Freedom Leaf:

“The fact that I grew up in a religious environment, in a moral environment with a strong sense of social justice, and the fact that I went off to college and started smoking marijuana and wondered why people were getting busted for it, and then the fact that I wanted to be a professor and find something that was emotionally engaging—I think all those things came together around this cause of ending the War on Drugs.”

Nadelmann’s departure comes on the heels of several executive-level changes at industry organizations in 2016. In July, Allen St. Pierre resigned as Executive Director of NORML after 11 years leading the advocacy group. Before that, he served for 14 years as Deputy Director. St. Pierre is now the VP of Communications and Advocacy at Freedom Leaf. In November, Erik Altieri took the helm as NORML’s Executive Director.

Also in July, Women Grow co-founders Jazmin Hupp andJane West stepped down as CEO and National Events Director, respectively, and Leah Heise was named CEO.