Ethan Nadelmann's Farewell Letter to Drug Policy Alliance Staff
The time has come for me to step aside as executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
This is just about the toughest decision I've ever made but it feels like the right time for me personally and also for DPA. It's almost twenty-three years since I started The Lindesmith Center and approaching seventeen years since we merged with the Drug Policy Foundation to create DPA. We've grown from little more than an idea into a remarkable advocacy organization that has built, led and defined a new political and cultural movement.
Transitions like this are never easy but I am confident that DPA will continue to flourish. Our finances are strong and our donor base more diversified than ever before, with new sources of potential funding rapidly emerging. The talent, experience and commitment of staff and board are extraordinary. Our mission and vision are as relevant today as when we started, even as our many victories present new challenges and opportunities.
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 sixty, 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.
Most of you have heard me compare our drug policy reform movement to other movements for social justice and individual liberty – notably those for women's rights, civil rights and gay rights – and describe each as inevitably a multi-generational struggle. I am immensely proud to have played the role I did in the first generation of our movement and to know that there are so many exceptional people who will lead – indeed, are now leading – the second generation. It's time now for a new person to assume the leadership of DPA and take this organization and our cause where they need to go.
I had strongly hoped and assumed, as I came to this decision, that Donald Trump would not be our next president. That development did indeed give me pause but not change my mind. His administration will surely hamper our progress at the federal level but do little to undermine our progress and prospects in the states and cities where so much of our work has focused. And there are always, as we've learned from experience, unique opportunities that arise when our opposition is clearly defined and when it overreaches, as it inevitably will.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to have a strong board as well as a chairman, Ira Glasser, who knows and loves DPA deeply. He and I have agreed on a target date of late April for me to step down, at which point, I am pleased to say, DPA's former deputy executive director, Derek Hodel, has agreed to serve as interim executive director until my successor is in place. The search for that person now commences.
My greatest regret in making this move is the prospect of missing you. My admiration and respect for the work you've done, and the passion, commitment and superb judgment you've demonstrated again and again, truly knows no bounds. I'll dearly miss our comradery and our shared struggles. But I'm not going far, and nothing will give me greater pride and joy than to watch DPA grow into an ever more powerful advocate for drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights!
Onward and forward ...
Ethan Nadelmann is the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance.