Drug policy reform is a big tent; it brings together people fighting for criminal justice reform, racial justice, individual liberty, dignity, human rights, public health and public safety. There are experts working on harm reduction, advocates fighting for an end to punitive and destructive criminal sanctions, activists pushing for marijuana legalization. We often overlap, collaborate and support each other, yet it is rarer to find someone who actively and tirelessly fights for all facets of drug policy reform, who seamlessly unites all the strands of this growing movement.
This week we are honoring Rafael Torruella, a living example of what it means to be a drug policy reformer, in the broadest sense of the term. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he grew up witnessing the problems associated with drug use and drug control policies; in Puerto Rico over 40 percent of new HIV infections are caused by use of contaminated syringes. Rafael knew there was a problem with the way the government dealt with drug use, with the marginalization of people who use drugs.