2024 Symposium

The Symposium will take place on Friday, February 9, 2024, from 12:30 PM to 6:30 PM, at the Shalala Student Center, Grand Ballroom.

Symposium Program PDF

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The 2024 Symposium recording is available here.

This year’s symposium titled, Reflections on the War on Drugs, focuses on drug policy and the criminalization of addiction in America. We will take a critical look at how the criminal legal system interacts with addiction, the impact of the War on Drugs, efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the harm caused, and legal issues related to the legalization of drugs. We will open with a keynote from Kassandra Frederique, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, and close the event with a keynote address from Laura E. Mate, Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Welcome and Opening Remarks (1:15 P.M. – 1:25 P.M.)

Opening Keynote Address (1:25 P.M. – 2:05 P.M.)

Kassandra Frederique

Kassandra Frederique is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit that works to end the war on drugs—which has disproportionately harmed Black, Latinx, Indigenous, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities—and build alternatives grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights.

During her time at DPA, Frederique has built and led innovative campaigns around policing, the overdose crisis, and marijuana legalization—each with a consistent racial justice focus. Her advocacy, and all of the Drug Policy Alliance’s work, lies at the intersection of health, equity, autonomy, and justice. She has mobilized cities to rethink their approach to drug policy from the ground up and has helped bring the dialogue around safer consumption spaces to the national level through strategic organizing and partner development. Among other victories, Frederique was the architect of the campaign that cut the number of New York City marijuana arrests by more than 99% since 2010, curtailing the city’s infamous reign as the marijuana arrest capital of the country.

Throughout her work, Frederique has been a powerful advocate for working closely with people who have been directly impacted by the war on drugs, and she has built strong alliances with partners in New York and beyond. She has been instrumental in grounding the national drug policy conversation around reparative justice and restitution for communities harmed by the war on drugs. Additionally, Frederique is actively working with the In Our Names Network and other efforts across the country to resist drug war-fueled state violence.

Panel I: What is Addiction? (2:05 – 2:50 PM)

This will be a multidisciplinary panel aimed at providing attendees with a foundational understanding of addiction and the history of how the legal system has addressed addiction. It will touch on issues such as harm reduction, the relatively recent history of the War on Drugs, and a medical perspective of what addiction looks like in the body.


  • Professor Donald Jones – Professor of Law, is a Baltimore native and a graduate of the New York University School of Law. He teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, and Criminal Law at the law school. Professor Jones is a prominent author, legal theorist, and commentator who has earned an international reputation by thinking critically about important issues concerning the civil and political rights of all Americans.


  • Taleed El-Sabawi – is a scholar with the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute. Her area of expertise is in addiction and mental health policy, politics, and law. El-Sabawi holds a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and a Ph.D. in public health and health services management and policy, with a doctoral cognate in political science from the Ohio State University. El-Sabawi has studied and written extensively on legislative decision-making, interest group mobilization, and narrative discourse surrounding opioid overdose deaths; addiction policy history, specifically as it relates to the regulation of potentially habit-forming substances; and substance use disorder treatment financing parity. Recently, she co-authored a model law that creates non-police behavioral health crisis response teams and has been assisting grassroots advocacy groups in developing narrative strategies to garner political support for the reform of institutions that perpetuate racial violence.
  • Jan Sokol-Katz – is Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Department of Sociology and Criminology. Dr. Sokol-Katz is a Faculty Advisor of undergraduates, the Department’s Alpha Kappa Delta and Alpha Phi Sigma honor society chapters, and of the Sociology and Criminology Club and URecovery: Collegiate Recovery student organizations. Dr. Sokol-Katz is also Internship Coordinator of the Department’s Internship Program, and after receiving a fellowship from the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, partners with Exchange for Change (E4C), a nonprofit that facilitates exchanges between classrooms in correctional and court-mandated facilities, at a local juvenile residential facility. Dr. Sokol-Katz’s research interests include juvenile delinquency and substance abuse. 
  • David Serota – MD, MSc is an associate professor of medicine at University of Miami Miller School of medicine. He is an infectious disease (ID) and addiction medicine physician with clinical, research, and educational work at the intersection of ID and substance use. He is a harm reduction advocate and much of his work has focused on reducing stigma toward people who inject drugs, improving access to addiction treatment, and implementing harm reduction interventions. He sees patients at a low barrier buprenorphine program through UM’s syringe exchange program and has published research on harm reduction, infectious diseases, and treatment of OUD. His clinical and research area of focus is on treatment of severe infections related to injection drug use. 

Panel II: Civil Litigation (3:00 – 3:55 PM)

This panel will focus on the civil litigation against pharmaceutical companies aimed at holding companies legally responsible for the harm caused by the opioid epidemic.


  • Professor Madeleine Plasencia – earned tenure in 2003 at the University of Tulsa College of Law. After graduating from law school, she clerked for the Honorable James McGirr Kelly of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where her caseload included a multiparty nationwide class action lawsuit dealing with asbestos in public school buildings. After her clerkship, she practiced civil litigation in New York before entering the legal academy. At the University of Miami School of Law, she has taught Torts and Advanced Torts and regularly teaches Federal Courts and Civil Rights in the Supreme Court.


  • Curtis Osceola – currently serves as Chief of Staff for the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. His roles include coordinating, assisting, and advising the Tribal Government and its leadership as well as supervise administrative staff. Previously Mr. Osceola worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County and as an Associate at the Moskowitz Law Firm where the firm represents the Miccosukee Tribe in litigation against AmerisourceBergen for its role in the opioid epidemic. 
  • David Herzberg – is a historian of drugs whose research focuses on the legal kind—psychoactive pharmaceuticals. He explores the nature and trajectory of drug commerce, drug use, and drug policy in American racial capitalism. His work has appeared in numerous scholarly and medical journals, in popular media, and in three books:  White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (University of Chicago Press, 2020); Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009); and (with Helena Hansen and Jules Netherland), Whiteout: How Racial Capitalism Changed the Color of Opioids in America (University of California Press, 2023). Professor Herzberg is also co-editor of Social History of Alcohol and Drugs: An Interdisciplinary Journal, the official organ of the Alcohol and Drug History Society.
  • Francis A. “Frank” Citera – Shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, is a nationally-recognized trial lawyer representing clients in product liability, toxic torts, class actions, and other complex litigation matters in federal and state courts. Frank is co-chair of the firm’s Product Liability and Mass Torts Litigation Practice and co-chair of the Chicago Litigation Practice. An experienced architect of litigation strategies, Frank defends companies in various industries and business sectors, including retailers such as Albertson’s and Claire’s Stores, and technology and electronics companies like Qualcomm, Sony Electronics, and UL Solutions. He has achieved success in defeating class certification, disputing alleged claims in court, and obtaining summary judgments and outright dismissals prior to trial. Recognized as a thought leader in the area of toxic torts, he serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law teaching toxic torts to the next generation of lawyers.

Panel III: Criminalization of Addiction and Alternatives to Incarceration (4:00 – 4:55 PM)

This panel will invite a discussion on the societal implications of criminalizing addiction and ways in which the legal system has attempted to develop a new approach to addiction.


  • Shara Kobetz Pelz – Professor of Legal Writing at the University of Miami School of Law. Prior to working at UM, Professor Kobetz-Pelz was an Assistant Public Defender with Miami-Dade County. Professor Kobetz-Pelz has also taught Legal Writing to incarcerated individuals with Exchange for Change since Spring 2018.


  • Judge Laura Cruz – Current Circuit Court Criminal Judge and Former Drug Court Judge in Miami
  • Beau Kilmer (he/him) – is the Chair in Drug Policy Innovation, codirector of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, a senior policy researcher at RAND, and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His research lies at the intersection of public health and public safety, with special emphasis on substance use, illegal markets, crime control, and public policy. Some of his current projects include assessing the consequences of cannabis legalization (with a special focus on social equity); measuring the effect of 24/7 Sobriety programs on impaired driving, domestic violence, and mortality; analyzing changes in illegal fentanyl markets; and considering the implications of legalizing psychedelics.
  • Rob Collins, Esq. – is the Miami-Dade County Education & Outreach Coordinator at Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (HOPE, Inc.), a non-profit that fights housing discrimination in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.  He is also a member and past Chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission on Human Rights.  He is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and has previously spent years living in St. Louis, Seattle, and Chicago, where he’s from.

Panel IV: Possibilities of Legalization (5:00 – 5:40 PM)

This will be a conversation around what paths to legalization and decriminalization could look like and the various debates on this issue. We hope to share what options there are for the structure of local decriminalization or legalization. Additionally, we would like to provide the space for a discussion on the various viewpoints around this issue and why it remains so contentious in our national debate.


  • Myles Crandall – is an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Southern District of Florida. He graduated from UM Law in 2023 where he participated in the Miami Scholars Public Interest Program and was a fellow with the Miami Law Innocence Clinic. He was a Symposium Editor, along with Olivia Johnson, for UMLR’s 2023 Symposium focused on Environmental Justice. Myles interned with the Harm Reduction Legal Project where he conducted legal research, provided technical assistance, and drafted reports on topics including state overdose reporting statutes. Prior to law school, Myles taught high school and middle school in Denver and Salt Lake City.


  • Jason Barker – is a Portland business attorney whose multidisciplinary practice involves complex corporate transactions and alcohol beverage regulatory matters. Mr. Barker has a deep industry knowledge involving owners, operators and investors within the alcohol beverage, homebuilding and timber industries. He represents clients located throughout the United States and who also operate internationally. In addition, Mr. Barker is a visiting professor at the University of Miami School of Law and teaches courses regarding the regulation of alcoholic beverages and cannabis to upper-level law students.
  • Dr. Mason Marks – is The Florida Bar health law section professor at the Florida State University College of Law. At Harvard Law School, he is the senior fellow and project lead of the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics. He is also an affiliated fellow at the Information Society Project (ISP) at Yale Law School. Marks was previously a fellow in residence at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, a research scholar at the Information Law Institute at NYU Law School, and a visiting fellow at Yale Law School’s ISP. An expert on the fast-emerging psychedelics industry, he advises local, state, and federal lawmakers and regulators on the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape regarding controlled substances. He has presented his research at the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Closing Keynote Address (5:45 – 6:30 PM)

Laura E. Mate

Laura E. Mate is the Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Ms. Mate previously served as Director of the Sentencing Resource Counsel for the Federal Public and Community Defenders from 2020 to 2022. Prior to her position as Director, Ms. Mate served as a member of the Sentencing Resource Counsel from 2010 to 2020. From 2001 to 2010, Ms. Mate served in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington in various roles, including as Assistant Federal Public Defender. Ms. Mate was an associate at Perkins Coie LLP from 1998 to 2001.

Ms. Mate received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1998 and her B.A. from Kenyon College in 1992.

Symposium Sponsor

We would like to thank this year’s symposium sponsors, Miami Law and LAFAC. The support is greatly appreciated.