The New, Diverse Leaders of Cannabis Reform

Diversity in Cannabis: DPA’s Kassandra Frederique, SSDP’s Jason Ortiz and MPP’s Steve Hawkins

Jason Ortiz is the latest POC chosen to lead a cannabis-reform organization. On February 23, the SSDP alumnus was named executive director of the student-based group. (SSDP stands for Students for Sensible Drug Policy.) The previous director, Betty Alworth, stepped down in 2020.

Ortiz stated:

“To have the opportunity to lead the organization that has been such a huge part of who I am today is both an honor and a dream come true. The world is ready for a new approach to drug policy and SSDP will be the organization to train the next generation of movement leaders, policy makers and entrepreneurs.”

Ortiz connected with SSDP when he attended University of Connecticut. After graduating he founded the Minority Cannabis Business Assocation. Ortiz is of Puerto Rican descent.

Also in 2020, Kassandra Frederique became executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, replacing Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, who took over for co-founder Ethan Nadelmann in 2017.

In 2018, Steve Hawkins was selected to head Marijuana Policy Project, replacing co-founder Rob Kampia. Both Frederique and Hawkins are African-American.

Founded by Jane West and Jazmin Hupp in 2014, Women Grow is now directed by Dr. Chanda Macias (CEO) and Gia Morón (president); both are women of color.

Americans for Safe Access founder Steph Sherer is no longer executiuve director. That position is now held by Debbie Churgai.

At NORML, Erik Altieri succeeded longtime director Allen St. Pierre in 2017.


Become a Patron!


Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.