I was inspired at the 2012 Cannabis Law Reform Conference hosted by Oregon Students for Sensible Drug Policy by what college students can do if they put their minds to it. I sent out e-mails across the nation, 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 Northwestern University. Chapter representatives Frances Fu and Andrew Lu were kind enough to send over the following responses ( TWB questions are in bold, above Northwestern’s responses):
How long has your Students for Sensible Drug Policy Chapter existed?
Our chapter is still in the beginning stages of its formation. We officially started organizing in late October, so we have been in existence for about 5 months now.
How many members does your Students for Sensible Drug Policy currently have?
We currently have 11 Executive Board members, and over 95 people keeping up to date with SSDP activities.
What is your chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy doing to recruit new members?
We recently set up a table at our university’s winter activities fair, and will continue tabling at events like these to spread the word. During fall quarter 2012, we will focus more on recruiting new active members by posting informational fliers and encouraging people to come to events and get involved.
What are the goals of your Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter for this academic year?
For the spring semester, I hope to hold various educational programs at different residential halls to talk about the basic issues of the War on Drugs, and collaborate with different student groups with similar interests to co-host larger, general events, such as movie screenings, guest speakers, and socials. Hopefully by the end of this year, SSDP at Northwestern will be a well-known student group that has successfully generated discussion about the War on Drugs.
How would you describe the marijuana culture on your campus?
According to a study conducted on our campus “Most NU students (77%) do not use marijuana. Among those who do, 65% use on 5 or fewer days a month.” But throughout the 5 months of our chapter’s existence, we have also witnessed strong support for our cause from our peers and faculty. It’s clear that our fellow Wildcats here at Northwestern University are very intelligent, friendly, and open-minded people, and that many people are ready to learn about the truth about marijuana!
How would you describe the campus laws towards marijuana?
In my opinion, the campus laws at Northwestern towards marijuana are a lot more reasonable compared to those on other campuses. For example, if students are caught in possession or use of marijuana, he or she is mandated to BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), a two-part non-confrontational and non-judgmental program specifically designed for users to evaluate their drug or alcohol use. We also have a Good Samaritan Policy in place, which is something many universities still lack.
If you could give advice to college students that are reading this interview, what would it be?
Get involved on your campus! If SSDP, NORML, or any similar student group already exists on campus, join it. If not, organize one! We need strong leaders to help spread the word and forward our agenda. But remember to put some effort into your work; so many organizations fail to gain or maintain momentum because members fail to commit. Do you have what it takes?
Also, if you or someone you know is a smoker, know your rights! You can’t protect yourself or others from unscrupulous extensions of the law’s hand if you aren’t equipped with the proper knowledge to do so.
What would be the benefits of legalizing marijuana?
Legalizing marijuana would begin the process of eliminating the stigmatization of drug users in general and make our communities as a whole safer for everyone. If the government were to take control of the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana, the public would know that the product that they are buying is safe. Legalizing marijuana would also promote research and education of responsible marijuana use. Although marijuana may be the “least harmful” drug, because it is illegal, there are still things we don’t know about marijuana. For example, for those who are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder or depression, using marijuana may trigger these disorders. Marijuana is known to harbor numerous medical benefits, but the only way to discover its potential advantages- or harm- is to be able to perform legitimate research and uncover the mechanisms and relationships between this substance and ailments.
Our current drug education is mostly focused on alcohol, but as marijuana use is increasing amongst adolescent, it’s important to promote marijuana use education as well.
What are the drawbacks of continuing marijuana prohibition?
The drawbacks of extending prohibition are manifold- too numerous to catalog in this interview. One of the many drawbacks include the tremendous amount of money funneled into the incarceration of drug offenders. Half of the total federal prison population is there for drug-related crimes, and half of these are marijuana related. 88% are in jail merely for possession while the rest are there for sale and manufacturing (including cultivation). The average annual cost to house a prison inmate in the U.S. is roughly $45,000. With over two million prisoners in our nation and our economy in the state it’s in, can we truly afford prohibition?
How would marijuana legalization affect your chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy?
Legalization is definitely one of the goals of Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters everywhere, but I believe that even when the day for legalization comes, there will still be a lot of work for us to do in terms of drug policy and drug education. In many schools, where the prevailing message from drug education is “Just Say No,” we will still have much work to do in terms of teaching people about safe, responsible drug use.
Do you have any Students for Sensible Drug Policy events coming up in your area?
The 2nd Annual Forum on Drug Policy will be held on April 13, 2012 at the Roosevelt University in Chicago. There will be discussion on harm reduction from state and international perspectives, as well as state’s efforts to legalize marijuana for non-medical applications. Also, the annual Midwest SSDP Conference will be held in Fall 2012 at Roosevelt University. As for our chapter, on April 21, 2012, we have invited Eddie Einbinder to come and screen his documentary “Play Safe,” which documents casual users taking the necessary precautions to use a variety of drugs in order to convey safest practice and effects. The message to take away from this documentary is that regardless of whether these drugs are legal, there will be drug use. But it’s important that we teach people about harm reduction and safer practices.
How can readers support your chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy?
Our chapter is still pretty young, and our minds are open to new ideas. If you or anyone you know has any valuable advice or resources, or great ideas for events, please don’t hesitate to contact us!