The Drug Policy Alliance was formed in July 2000 when The Lindesmith Center, an activist drug policy think-tank established in 1994, merged with the Drug Policy Foundation, a membership and grant-making organization established in 1987, to create the world’s leading drug policy reform organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good.

The Lindesmith Center (TLC) was founded in 1994 by Ethan Nadelmann, JD, PhD, a professor of politics at Princeton University, whose writings on drug policy had attracted international attention. The Lindesmith Center -- named after Prof. Alfred Lindesmith, an Indiana University professor who was the first prominent scholar in the U.S. to challenge conventional thinking about drugs, addiction and drug policy -- became the first domestic project of George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI). It rapidly emerged as the leading drug policy reform advocacy institute in the United States.

The Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) was founded in 1987 by Arnold S. Trebach, JD, PhD, a professor at American University, and Kevin B. Zeese, an attorney who had directed the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in the early 1980s. They envisioned DPF as “the loyal opposition to the war on drugs” and they introduced a number of initiatives that have defined the drug policy reform movement ever since. These included an annual drug policy reform conference (which shifted to a biennial conference in 2001), a regular publication series and an awards program to recognize achievement in various fields in drug policy reform. DPF was also the first, most significant effort to build up a membership organization around drug policy reform.

On July 1, 2000, the two organizations merged to create the Drug Policy Alliance with the objective of becoming a powerful advocacy organization nationally and internationally. DPA is a 501(c)(3) organization and its partner, Drug Policy Action, is a 501(c)(4) organization.