Cannabis legalization group Drug Policy Alliance downsizes as funding tightens

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Drug Policy Alliance, Cannabis legalization group Drug Policy Alliance downsizes as funding tightens

(This story has been updated to include more information from the Drug Policy Alliance about its financial position and to reflect that no further staff cuts are expected.)

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), one of the nation’s top marijuana reform organizations, cut nearly a third of its staff in the past month and is continuing to look at ways to restructure amid funding challenges.

DPA closed its offices in Colorado and New Jersey last month and, at the same time, laid off some staff across the organization, said Heather Mangrum, the alliance’s managing director of communications.

In all, she said, the organization has cut its staff from a “little more than” 70 employees to about 50.

Mangrum stressed, however, that DPA isn’t planning any additional staff cuts.

“Our mission hasn’t changed,” Mangrum said of an organization known for its work in cannabis legalization and social justice.

“We’re looking at the current landscape of the drug policy movement,” she said, and restructuring to “put us on a more sustainable footing … and allow us to be more flexible and responsive.”

DPA, for example, currently has a team in New York’s state capital, Albany, that is actively engaged in an 11th-hour adult-use legalization effort.

In addition to New York, DPA has an office in California, where it played a major role in recreational MJ legalization, and a small presence in New Mexico.

Reflecting the funding challenge, DPA and its affiliate, Drug Policy Action, spent a combined $16 million in 2018, while taking in only $10.6 million, according to the organization’s 2018 annual report.

But Mangrum said the figures in the annual report portray a larger deficit than what DPA is actually facing because the figures don’t account for multiyear grant commitments. Those commitments actually close the deficit to less than $400,000, she said.

“It’s been a very challenging year,” Mangrum said. “We’re certainly not alone in that space.”

Jeff Smith can be reached at