Director Winifred Tate

I am a political anthropologist examining struggles for democracy, citizenship and political change in the wake of the more than a century of prohibitionist drug policy regimes. As director of the Maine Drug Policy Lab at Colby College, I bring together policymakers, scholars and students, provide evidence-based analysis for addressing critical drug policy issues in our state and beyond, and conduct research on problematic drug use and access to treatment in Maine.

Our research in Maine focuses on how drug use, addiction and recovery is imagined and experienced by community members, law enforcement and health care providers. My current project, “Women, Drug Use and Recovery in Maine,” employs qualitative methods to center the experience of women, which has been largely neglected in both scholarship and policy debates. The focus on so-called deaths of despair among the white working class has primarily highlighted the increasing death rate of men, while neglecting the experience of the women caregivers they leave behind. The high rates of drug-affected babies, and the extremely high rates of child removal in Maine have generated significant social concern. In 2016, Maine was sixth in the nation for cases in which substance use was a contributing factor for children removal from their parents, a number which increased in 2017. Yet there is little data the specificities of how rural Maine women who use drugs are triply stigmatized as women, mothers and for their drug use, and the resulting social harms of stigma, child welfare policies and drug enforcement. A focus on women who use drugs is critical for understanding how to best address the needs of Maine women and families through gender-sensitive drug policy reform proposals.

I am the author of two books about political violence, drug policy and social movements. Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (University of California Press, 2007) examines the history of the human rights movement in Colombia and the transformation of political violence because of the drug trade and counternarcotics policy, and Colombian activism within the United Nations system. Drugs, Thugs and Diplomats: US Policymaking in Colombia (University of Stanford Press, 2015) details the history of the U.S. assistance package known as Plan Colombia, the militarization of U.S. counternarcotics policy, and the efforts of grassroots groups to organize against the drug war and mitigate its effects.

I have extensive experience working as a policy analyst and advocate focused on drug policy issues. As the Colombia analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) from 1998-2001, I analyzed the impact of counternarcotics programs in-country, tracked US counternarcotics legislation, and represented WOLA with stakeholders in the debates over US drug policy and policy towards Colombia ranging from military officials to peasant community leaders. I was a co-convener of the Colombia Steering Committee, a coalition of more than 30 humanitarian, development, religious and solidarity groups. My leadership role included policy analysis, tracking legislation, developing a strategic vision and inclusive advocacy strategies. Our work resulted in human rights provisions in legislation and increased funding for alternative development programs, as well as increased public attention to these issues through strategic media outreach.