Our list of panelists and moderators is growing. Please note that speakers are subject to change.

photo of Patrick Beardsley

Dr. Patrick Beardsley

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Dr. Beardsley is a Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the VCU School of Medicine. Beardsley is an experienced behavioral pharmacologist with over 30 years of professional experience in both industry and academia. He is a voting and only U.S.A. member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.

photo of Kanya Bennett

Kanya Bennett

The Bail Project

Kanya Bennett is a senior policy counsel and legislative coalition manager at The Bail Project. Bennett most recently served as a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU where she advanced criminal justice reform at the federal level. Bennett also served as counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for over eight years.

Douglas A. Berman

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, The Ohio State University

Douglas Berman is the executive director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. Berman is also professor and Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. His principal teaching and research focus is in the area of criminal law and criminal sentencing and rapidly-evolving drug laws and regulations. Berman is also a long-time editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter.

photo of Jasmine Budnella

Jasmine Budnella


Jasmine Budnella is VOCAL-NY’s drug policy coordinator and leads their state and city campaigns to end the drug war and to win policies that promote harm reduction and public health. She also facilitates End Overdose NY—a coalition of stakeholders from across New York State that have been impacted by the overdose crisis.

photo of Daniel Ciccarone

Dr. Daniel Ciccarone

University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Dan Ciccarone is a board certified clinician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine. In his position as Professor of Family and Community Medicine at UCSF, he has been principal or co-investigator on numerous NIH sponsored public health research projects including his current Heroin in Transition study. He is a recognized international scholar on the medical, public health, and public policy dimensions of substance use, risk, and consequences. He is Associate Editor for the International Journal of Drug Policy and recently edited an IJDP special issue on the “triple wave crisis” of opioids, heroin, and fentanyl in the U.S.

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Dr. Sandy Comer

College on Problems of Drug Dependence

Dr. Sandra Comer is a Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and Director of the Opioid Laboratory in the Division on Substance Use Disorders. Her research focuses on evaluating the abuse liability of opioids as well as medications for treating opioid use disorder in humans using a variety of behavioral procedures. Dr. Comer served as President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), the longest standing scholarly society in the U.S. devoted to research on substance use disorders, and currently is the Public Policy Officer for CPDD.

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Sakira Cook

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Sakira Cook is the senior director of the Justice Reform Program at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Leadership Conference Education Fund. Cook previously worked as a Legal Fellow at the Open Society Foundations where her research mainly focused on the school to prison pipeline, sentencing reform, and drug policy reform.

Premal Dharia

Institute to End Mass Incarceration

Premal Dharia is the inaugural executive director of the Institute to End Mass Incarceration at Harvard Law School, which will launch in summer 2021. She has spent the last twenty years dedicated to challenging injustice in the criminal system, including work as a public defender, national trainer on litigation and advocacy, civil rights litigator, and advisor on policy issues. Most recently, she worked toward systemic change by founding and directing the Defender Impact Initiative.

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Kara Gotsch

The Sentencing Project

Kara Gotsch is deputy director of The Sentencing Project. While serving as the director of advocacy at The Sentencing Project, Gotsch helped lead the effort that resulted in the 2010 passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Previously, Gotsch led the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition and has held positions with National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Liz Komar

Fair and Just Prosecution

Liz Komar is the director of strategic initiatives at Fair and Just Prosecution, which works to transform the criminal legal system by supporting elected prosecutors committed to a new vision of justice. Komar’s policy work focuses on replacing the drug war and the criminalization of mental illness with public health interventions. Komar also served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and as an Attorney Advisor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review.

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Geoffrey Laredo

Santa Cruz Strategies LLC

Geoffrey Laredo is an addiction and public health policy expert and consultant with 30 years of federal government experience. Laredo was a senior advisor for the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health for 14 years and is a former director of the Office of Policy and Public Liaison at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Jeffrey Lazarus

Assistant Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Ohio

Jeff Lazarus has been an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Northern District of Ohio since 2008. Prior to his work for the FPD, he was with the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his B.A. from Miami University and his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His current work involves trial work, appellate litigation, post-conviction work, and sentence reduction proceedings.

photo of Marilyn Mosby

The Honorable Marilyn Mosby

State’s Attorney for Baltimore City

The Honorable Marilyn J. Mosby is the 25th State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, making her one of the youngest chief prosecutors of a major American city. Her leadership immediately transformed the State’s Attorney’s office into a national model for progressive holistic prosecution, exemplifying the mantra of not just being “tough on crime” but more importantly “smart on crime.”

photo of Ryan Marino

Dr. Ryan Marino

University Hospitals, Cleveland, Ohio

Dr. Ryan Marino is medical toxicologist, addiction medicine specialist and emergency physician in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Marino serves as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He received his M.D. from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

photo of Shantae Owens

Shantae Owens


Shantae Owens is a community leader with VOCAL-NY’s User Union, and an outreach worker providing drug user health services across New York City. As a former injection drug user who experienced homelessness, a person who has lost loved ones from overdose, and now a community specialist in harm reduction, Shantae has an expert lens on how the drug war has caused harm and impacted communities.

photo of Jason Pye

Jason Pye

Due Process Institute

Jason Pye is director of Rule of Law Initiatives at the Due Process Institute where he provides policy and legislative analysis, promotes the organization’s policy agenda on Capitol Hill. Prior to joining the Due Process Institute, Pye served as vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks.

photo of Patricia Richman

Patricia Richman

Federal Public and Community Defenders

Patricia Richman serves as the National Sentencing Resource Counsel to the Federal Public and Community Defenders in Washington, D.C, where she leads legislative and policy work. Previously, Patricia served as a Detailee Counsel on the Judiciary Committee for U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin and an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Maryland. Patricia has been practicing law since earning her J.D. at Duke University School of Law in 2010. Before law school, Patricia taught special education in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

photo of U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott

Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott

Virginia’s 3rd congressional district

Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott has represented Virginia’s third congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. Prior to his service in Congress, he served 15 years in the Virginia General Assembly. Congressman Scott currently serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. As a former member of the Committee on the Judiciary, he is a leading advocate for reforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system. He has successfully worked to pass bipartisan legislation to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, reform the juvenile justice system, and require reporting and federal data collection of deaths that occur in police custody, jails, and prisons.

photo of Grant Smith

Grant Smith

Drug Policy Alliance

Grant Smith is deputy director of the Office of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Smith lobbies to reduce the harms associated with drug use and the war on drugs. He works to advance the DPA legislative agenda in Washington and continually helps to shape policy both federally and within the District of Columbia. His areas of expertise include drug overdose prevention, emerging drugs, collateral consequences, marijuana law reform, and the intersection of immigration and drug policies.

photo of Sheila Vakharia

Dr. Sheila Vakharia

Drug Policy Alliance

Dr. Sheila Vakharia is deputy director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). In this role, Dr. Vakharia helps DPA staff and others learn about drug policy issues and responds to new studies with critiques and analysis. She plans conferences that surround drugs, drug research, and harm reduction, and is responsible for building relationships with researchers who have interests aligned with the DPA.