The Third Wave: Why New Drug Policy Needs To Be About Justice (Video)

Summary: The Third Wave interviews Natalie Lyla Ginsberg of MAPS about drug policy reform, reducing the stigma surrounding psychedelics, and her role as policy and advocacy director at MAPS.

Originally appearing here.


This week we talk psychedelics and drug policy with Natalie Ginsberg, Policy and Advocacy Director for MAPS. Natalie discusses how MAPS is using medical research to lay the groundwork for the decriminalization of all drug use. Could microdosing be a factor in destigmatizing drug use in mainstream society?


  • Natalie has witnessed first-hand the harm that current drug policy is doing disproportionately to people of color

  • Cannabis regulation has started to approach the issue of drug policy with a framework of justice

  • For us to make a difference, we need to use our privilege to openly discuss our substance use, and change cultural stigmas

Natalie’s experiences as social worker and guidance counsellor shaped her interest in drug policy. She saw the harm that drug policy was doing to the most vulnerable young people, and realized that things needed to change. It was while working as a policy fellow for the Drug Policy Alliance, that Natalie discovered the research being done by MAPS to get substances regulated for medical use.

When Natalie started working at MAPS, the only psychedelic she had personally experienced was cannabis. “Smoking cannabis helped me get to the point of being interested in understanding other psychedelics.” Her experience with this substance also benefitted her work life: “Some of my best ideas have come from smoking cannabis.”

Cannabis regulation is something that Natalie thinks is starting to turn the tide of drug policy – and showing people that justice needs to be at the forefront of policy changes. Although many states still focus on business or medicinal applications of cannabis, Cory Booker’s recent federal legislation proposal has shown that people are starting to think about justice for those who have been most harmed by drug prohibition.

Natalie emphasises the importance of not separating different substances. We should treat all drugs the same when it comes to regulation – as we all agree that the majority of drug-related harm comes from their legal status. This means it’s crucial that we regulate the most harmful drugs like heroin as soon as possible; which means breaking down stigmas.

So what can we do to change the conversation around drugs? Natalie says that if you have the privilege to speak openly about your drug use, you should be doing so. If you don’t risk losing your job or going to prison, you should be exercising your ability to spread the message about responsible and beneficial substance use.

Changing our cultural attitudes to drugs requires us to begin an open dialogue about their benefits and nuances, together with important research being carried out by organizations like MAPS.