John Walsh

Senior Associate for Drug Policy and the Andes
Areas of Expertise: 
Domestic and International Drug Policy, Drug Law Reform, Andean Region, Bolivia, Venezuela, Democracy and Elections

John Walsh has coordinated WOLA’s Drug Policy program since 2003, in support of more humane and effective drug policies in the Americas. Respected for his combination of careful policy analysis and effective advocacy, Mr. Walsh has helped establish WOLA as a key voice in the growing movement to make human rights, public health, and harm reduction central concerns of drug policy. 

Mr. Walsh has testified before Congress and published extensively on the need to reassess drug policy goals, strategies, and indicators. His analyses, including the publication “Development First,” have underscored the limits of supply-oriented drug policies and the extensive damage they cause. Connecting domestic U.S. reforms to the international drug policy debate, Mr. Walsh co-authored “Marijuana Legalization is an Opportunity to Modernize International Drug Treaties,” arguing that policy shifts underway in the Americas open the door to modernizing the global drug control regime. His work has contributed to the expansion of the international drug policy reform debate, and been instrumental in convening reform advocates and practitioners from across the hemisphere to discuss design and evaluation of legal, regulated cannabis.

Mr. Walsh also follows broader political developments in the Andean region, with particular emphasis on Venezuela. He tracks democracy and human rights issues in the country, and has established WOLA as a leading voice advocating for reasoned, respectful U.S. hemispheric relations. Mindful of the polarized politics in the region and the similarly polarized and sensationalized accounts that have marked U.S. views of developments in the Andes, Mr. Walsh has provided a balanced perspective, and WOLA has provided a venue for impassioned but respectful debate.

A frequent commentator on drug policy developments in the U.S. and Latin America, Mr. Walsh has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, National Public Radio, and numerous television and international news outlets. In addition to his congressional testimony, publications, press appearances, Mr. Walsh has organized and spoken at numerous U.S. and international conferences. Prior to joining WOLA, he served as director of research at Drug Strategies and worked at the Center of Concern on the “Rethinking Bretton Woods Project,” an effort to forge consensus on ideas for reform of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and international trade arrangements.

He received a B.A. in Theology from Georgetown University (1986) and an M.A. in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins University (1997).

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  • M.A. Johns Hopkins University, Public Policy
  • B.A. Georgetown University, Theology
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