I sent out e-mails across the nation after the 2012 Cannabis Law Reform Conference hosted by Oregon Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and even to some international Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters, with interview questions in order to write articles like this one to highlight their efforts. I will continue to post the responses as I receive them. This Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter interview on TWB will be with George Washington University Law School. Chapter founder and President Kellen Russoniello was kind enough to send over the following responses (TWB questions are in bold, above Kellen’s responses):
How long has your Students for Sensible Drug Policy Chapter existed?
Our chapter was originally founded in April of 2010 under the name “Student Association for Drug Law Reform.” We were officially recognized as an SSDP chapter in September of 2011.
How many members does your Students for Sensible Drug Policy currently have?
There are currently over 100 members on our mailing list.
What is your chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy doing to recruit new members?
Our chapter tries to host events that appeal to a broad range of interests so as to draw new people. We also co-host events with various other organizations and recruit their members. When the law school hosts tabling days, we have a booth set up with material and information on how to get involved.
What are the goals of your Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter for this academic year?
Because the end of the year is not too far away, our goals are to have a successful final general body meeting in which a new, dedicated executive board is elected. Additionally, we are going to take a trip to the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the case of Dorsey v. United States, which addresses the retroactivity of the Fair Sentencing Act.
How would you describe the marijuana culture on your campus?
I cannot speak for the campus as a whole, but at the law school, there is not much of a marijuana culture, perhaps for obvious reasons. That being said, there are certainly law students that find recreational entertainment in using cannabis.
How would you describe the campus laws towards marijuana?
Marijuana is treated more harshly than alcohol on the GW campus. For example, a first time marijuana possession offense results in disciplinary probation, a fine, mandatory attendance in a drug education program and eviction from the residence halls, whereas alcohol offenses only result in a fine and mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program. Eviction from the residence halls is certainly a strict penalty for marijuana use or possession, and is not helpful in getting students on the right track.
If you could give advice to college students that are reading this interview, what would it be?
Get involved! If your college has an SSDP chapter, become an active member. If they don’t, start one up. More information can be found here. Additionally, run for your student government. It always helps to have friends on the inside! Finally, try to incorporate drug policy reform into your other school work. If you are creative, you can probably incorporate drug policy into most of your papers.
What would be the benefits of legalizing marijuana?
There are too many to list here, but a few are worth specific mention. First, the amount of money that would be saved when it is no longer used to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana offenders, combined with the tax revenue that could be made from selling it legally, would be a huge boon to many states’ downtrodden economies. Second, legalization would allow police to redirect their efforts on other, more important crimes, such as robberies and murders, making our communities safer, instead of allowing police to become akin to an internal paramilitary force. Third, this would eliminate a major source of violence caused by the black market, as people will no longer have to deal with people wielding guns but can instead obtain marijuana from legitimate businesspeople. Although we see this in our cities, it is present on a major scale in other countries, such as Mexico. Legalization of marijuana would take an enormous amount of profit from drug trafficking organizations. Fourth, marijuana prohibition unfairly targets minorities, and legalizing it would eliminate a major possibility for police to discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics. I could continue, but it should suffice to say that marijuana legalization would result in a tremendous amount of societal benefits.
What are the drawbacks of continuing marijuana prohibition?
In short, continuing marijuana prohibition is a continuation of the squandering of taxpayer dollars for a policy that has produced no positive results since its inception. It is the continuation of denying effective medicine to sick and needy patients. It is the continuation of undermining international sovereignty by dictating US policy on other countries only to produce unstableness in rule of law. It is the continuation of the evisceration of constitutional rights. And it is the continuation of destroying communities, families, and lives.
How would marijuana legalization affect your chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy?
Because our chapter is at a law school, this would open up opportunities for training and internships in the field of marijuana law. Marijuana legalization will be accompanied by a need for marijuana lawyers to help in the administration of the laws. Regulatory entities, dispensaries, and cultivation centers will need legal representation, and our chapter will focus on providing help in these areas. It may also shift our focus to other unjust elements of the war on drugs.
Do you have any Students for Sensible Drug Policy events coming up in your area?
We will be having an event concerning the federal crackdown on medical marijuana and the up to date progress on the medical marijuana program in DC sometime in March. Make sure to find us on Facebook and check for more details. Also, the SSDP national conference is taking place March 23-25 in Denver. Finally, we will be attending oral arguments at the US Supreme Court on April 17th for the case of Dorsey v. United States. We hope you can join use for one or all of these!
How can readers support your chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy?
Like us on Facebook. If you are in the area, make sure to see if we have any events going on!