Ashleigh Dennis, J.D., serves as Staff Attorney with the Harm Reduction Legal Project. Prior to joining the Network, she worked at Root & Rebound, a reentry organization, on direct services and impact litigation, focusing on helping those returning from incarceration with an emphasis on employment and record cleaning. She has been involved in criminal justice and drug policy reform since high school after experiencing a DEA raid and interning with Law Enforcement Action Partnership during her senior year. In college, Ashleigh founded the Chapman University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (“SSDP”). During law school at the University of California, Irvine, she continued activism with SSDP and interned with Root & Rebound, the ACLU SoCal Jails Project, the Loyola Project for the Innocent, and Community Legal Aid SoCal. She is barred in California.

Articles & Resources

Six Policies That Advance Mental Health

Policy BriefMental Health and Well-BeingMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

June 3, 2024
by Amy Lieberman, April Shaw, Ashleigh Dennis, Daniel Wacker, Darlene Huang Briggs, Emma Kaeser, Jill Krueger, Joanna S. Suder and Susan Fleurant

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Network attorneys and staff have identified six key policies with the potential to significantly improve mental health outcomes across the United States. This policy brief covers a wide range of areas focused on communities and those who work to support communities. It is designed as a practical resource for public health professionals, leaders, and partners, offering strategies to enhance mental health and well-being while reducing disparities in mental health care.

View page

Some States Unwisely Cling to One-to-One Syringe Exchange Instead of Evidence Based Needs-Based Distribution

Law & Policy InsightsSubstance Use Prevention and Harm ReductionHarm Reduction Legal ProjectHarm Reduction Legal Project Resources

April 1, 2024
by Ashleigh Dennis

Syringe services programs (SSPs) are crucial legal and health intervention and multiple studies have shown the best model for SSPs is needs-based syringe distribution, in which SSP participants are provided with the quantity of supplies they need to use safely. Yet, many states require participants to return a used needle for every new needle they are given, resulting in undue health risks and other harms.

Read more

Harm Reduction Laws in the United States – 2024 Update

WebinarsSubstance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

February 27, 2024
by Amy Lieberman, Ashleigh Dennis and Corey Davis

In the U.S. there is considerable variation in the presence and specifics of laws regarding drug paraphernalia, naloxone access, and protections for people who call for help in an overdose, and these laws have changed over time. This webinar is designed to reduce confusion around harm reduction laws in the U.S. and help individuals and organizations better understand how the legal landscape in their state may impact access to harm reduction services and supplies and emergency medical assistance in an overdose.

View page

Drug-induced Homicide Laws will not Reduce Overdose Deaths: A Reminder on International Overdose Awareness Day

Law & Policy InsightsSubstance Use Prevention and Harm ReductionHarm Reduction Legal ProjectLegislation and Legal Challenges

August 30, 2023
by Amy Lieberman and Ashleigh Dennis

Over one million people in the U.S. have died from overdose since 1999. This year, as we remember those we’ve needlessly lost, we are also seeing calls for increased penalties for people who share drugs. Perhaps the cruelest form of these laws are drug-induced homicide (“DIH”) laws.

Read more

Collateral Consequences of Criminalizing Substance Use Disorder

Law & Policy InsightsSubstance Use Prevention and Harm ReductionHarm Reduction Legal ProjectLegislation and Legal Challenges

July 25, 2023
by Ashleigh Dennis and Corey Davis

The “War on Drugs” could better be described as a “War on People.” In addition to obvious negative impacts such as incarceration and increases in drug-related harm, this “War” also leads to collateral consequences that can last for years —or even a lifetime. Collateral consequences are legal barriers resulting from a person’s conviction in addition to incarceration, parole or probation, and fines and fees.

Read more