Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

Executive Director

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno is the Drug Policy Alliance’s Executive Director. She brings nearly thirteen years of international and domestic drug policy experience from her work at Human Rights Watch, where she served most recently as Co-Director of the US Program.

Maria’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.

During her tenure at Human Rights Watch, Maria led 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. She also 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 decriminalizing the personal use and possession of drugs and global drug reform more broadly. 

Maria is the author of the narrative non-fiction book There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia, released by Nation Books in February 2018, which won the Juan E. Mendez Human Rights Book Award.

Early in her career, Maria clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, taught human rights as a fellow at Fordham Law School, and participated in litigation as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. Maria holds a law degree, magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law, which she attended on a Dean’s scholarship, and did most of her undergraduate studies in Lima, Peru, before completing her BA, summa cum laude at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a native speaker of both Spanish and English.

See Maria's writings and videos.

Senior Management Team