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Attention Students: Start a SAFER Campus Campaign This Spring

The SAFER Campuses Initiative is off to an early start for Spring 2011, and we want to help you get a campaign going on your campus.

We're already helping several campuses get their efforts off the ground, and we'll continue to help them and others work to change campus policies and spark public debate about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.

The goal of the SAFER Campuses Initiative is to work with students at as many schools as possible, so please contact us today to let us know if you are interested in working with us on your campus or at one near you.

Whether you're interested in running a full-blown SAFER campaign, or simply taking action when opportunities present themselves, we want to hear from you!  We will be able to provide you with a great deal of support, including instructions, materials, and direct assistance.

The SAFER movement began just five years ago on two college campuses in Colorado, and since then it has spread across the nation. Now, students at more than a dozen schools, including five of the 15 largest in the nation, have adopted SAFER referendums, calling for reductions in campus penalties for marijuana use so they're no greater than those for alcohol use. At a few of those schools, SAFER campus leaders are now working with administrators to develop and implement policy changes that reflect the student votes. Perhaps most importantly, these efforts have generated significant news coverage and discussion at the campus, local, and even national level.

If you're interested in working with SAFER on your campus or on one that's nearby, please take a minute to check out the SAFER Campuses Initiative website, then send us an e-mail and answer the following questions about yourself and your school so we can get things rolling.

1. What school are you currently attending or interested in working at?

2. Are you a member of a student organization working on marijuana policy reform? If so, which one? If not, are you interested in potentially starting one? (NOTE: being part of or starting a student organization is not required, but can be very helpful.)

3. Anything else that might be of note? A personal story? A particular skill or work/volunteer experience?

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Drug Prohibition War Prompts Text Message Alert System at UT-Brownsville

Location: 
Brownsville, TX
United States
The University of Texas-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College is planning an emergency text messaging system as part of its strategy to alert students and faculty to dangers amid the drug prohibition war raging across the Rio Grande. One recent intelligence alert had campus police knocking on dorm doors in the middle of the night to warn students to stay indoors.
Publication/Source: 
San Antonio Express-News (TX)
URL: 
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/drug_war_prompts_text_message_alert_system_at_ut-brownsville_107093873.html

Breaking: House Committee Votes to Eliminate Financial Aid Loss Penalty for Drug Possessors

Read about the partial repeal of Souder's law included in their student loans bill by the House Education and Labor Committee -- of which Souder is a member -- in Souder's hometown newspaper. This is the third time Congress has moved to scale the law back -- the first two times Souder supported the changes, this time he didn't. Of course this is just one stage of the process, but leadership wouldn't have moved it forward if they didn't think they could make it stick. We've been working on this issue since 1999 when the law first passed. Exciting times. The work will go on, or course, to fully repeal the law for everyone. Look for more news on this soon.
press conference we organized on this issue in 2002
, for the
Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, attended by ten
members of Congress
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Feature: The Kids Are Alright -- The SSDP 10th International Conference

Buoyed by this month's election results and jazzed by the prospects for change with a new administration in Washington, some 450 student activists converged on the University of Maryland campus in College Park last weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) at the group's annual international conference.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ssdp08eveningdrugwarrant.jpg
first evening gathering (photo courtesy DrugWarRant.com)
Hosted by University of Maryland SSDP, traditionally one of the national group's staunchest chapters, the conference saw students come from across the nation and at least two foreign countries for three days of education, training in effective activism, and hands-on lobbying on Capitol Hill. Among the attendees were representatives of Canadian SSDP, buoyed by their own national conference, the organization's second, attended by 250 people earlier this month.

For both SSDP veterans and newcomers alike, the conference provided opportunities for networking, inspiration, and education. For some of the younger attendees, it was an eye-opener.

"I didn't realize how many people were involved in this," said SSDP national office intern Ericha Richards, a freshman at American University. "It's exciting!"

Jimmy Devine of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire has been attending for several years, but still found plenty to get excited about. "It's always good to come to national, to see what the other chapters have been up to, and to meet old friends," he said. "And we're always looking for new ideas to take back with us."

On Friday, led by Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lobbyist Aaron Houston, the students spent the morning polishing up on lobbying basics, then visited with representatives or their staffers to push for reductions in the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Students reported mixed results, but that's no surprise, and even with representatives on the wrong side of the issues, lobbying is part of changing minds -- and votes.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ssdp08dannydavis4drugwarrant.jpg
Rep. Danny Davis (photo courtesy DrugWarRant.com)
On Saturday and Sunday, students gathered at the University of Maryland student union for two days of panels and training in activism. Saturday morning, they heard from movement leaders, who described the chances of drug reform at the federal level in coming years with varying degrees of optimism. With the Democratic sweep of the presidency and the Congress, the prospects have improved, but big obstacles remain, the students heard.

"This election was about change," said MPP's Houston. "It's a very exciting time, so why aren't we doing back flips?" he asked. Drug reform may get short shrift in an Obama administration faced with a free-falling economy and foreign crises, Houston answered himself. "We're walking into favorable conditions, but there are a lot of issues facing Obama and the Congress."

But the economic crisis could lead to opportunity, he said. "We have huge economic problems, and this could be the time to start talking about taxing and regulating marijuana. That could generate $10 to $14 billion a year for the federal treasury," he said.

"Change is going to happen," said Adam Wolf of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. Wolf ticked off an ACLU reform wish list of rescheduling marijuana, ending the government monopoly on growing marijuana for research purposes, ending the selective prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers, abolishing the crack/powder sentencing disparity, and banning racial profiling.

"I'm hugely optimistic about the prospects for change in Congress," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), citing support for ending the federal funding ban on syringe exchange and reducing or eliminating the crack/powder sentencing disparity among highly placed Democrats. "We are over the hump," the Capitol Hill veteran said. "People are not afraid any more to talk about drug policy, and we have key committee chairs on our side. We will repeal the syringe ban and reduce sentencing disparities," he predicted.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ssdp08raidspanel.jpg
police militarization panel, featuring Reason's Radley Balko, StoptheDrugWar.org executive director David Borden, SWAT raid victim Mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, moderated by Alison Grimmer of Roosevelt University SSDP
But Piper was also looking just a bit further down the road then next year's Congress. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) comes up for reauthorization in 2010, he noted. Rather than try futilely to eliminate the office, "we can try to shift ONDCP's goals" to a more public health-oriented approach, he suggested.

"Marijuana is more popular than the past three presidents," MPP executive director Rob Kampia told a cheering audience as he recounted this year's victories for medical marijuana in Michigan and decriminalization in Massachusetts.

Student activists took no back seat to the professionals, though, and the breadth of reform efforts by SSDP chapters, and number of campuses leading or helping with them was impressive. Conference-goers got to hear about campus campaigns ranging from establishing safe ride programs (reducing intoxicated driving without exposing students to threat of penalty); good Samaritan overdose policies (neither the student needing medical help nor the student reporting it facing threat of arrest); getting schools to stop calling police into dorms for drug infractions; reforming dorm eviction policies for substance violations; working with ballot initiative campaigns such as those in Michigan and Berkeley; public education efforts; and state lobbying campaign; among others.

One chapter, Kalamazoo College in Michigan, seemed to have done almost everything, and all during its first year. At the annual Awards Banquet, where representatives received the Outstanding Chapter Award, a raft of impressive achievements were listed off in the introduction. Not only did Kalamazoo SSDP get a safe ride program established, and Good Samaritan and not calling police into dorms for minor drug violation policies established. They also went outside the campus to bring together a coalition of community groups, government agencies and law enforcement to get approval for a needle exchange program in the city for the first time.

One highlight of the conference was the Saturday lunch debate between SSDP executive director Kris Krane and Kevin Sabet of Students Taking Action Not Drugs. The back and forth between the two, moderated by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, kept the audience rapt -- and scoring the debate like a boxing match.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ssdp08debate.jpg
Krane/Sabet debate, Washington Post's Courtland Milloy moderating
Sabet, in what must have felt like hostile territory, did his best to try to establish "common ground" with drug reformers, citing his support for addressing the crack/powder disparity and qualifying some of drug czar John Walters' policies as "stupid politics." He also cited as models programs like North Carolina's Project HOPE, where probationers and parolees confronted by positive drug tests are not sent back to prison, but are hit with quick, short jail stays. "That's a huge motivation," Sabet argued.

If Sabet was looking for agreement from Krane or the audience, he didn't find much of it. "Our metrics in the war on drugs are wrong," said Krane. "We should be measuring abuse, problem use, infection rates -- not drug use rates," he argued. "You have to get arrested to get treatment, and that's backwards," he said.

Instead of being based on the Holy Grail of reducing drug use, drug policy should have different guiding principles, Krane argued. "First, no one should be punished for using drugs absent harm to others. Second, we should adopt a harm reduction framework, and third, we should adopt a human rights framework."

"Drug use doesn't occur in a vacuum," Sabet retorted. "A lot of drug use is problematic, and some of that can be addressed by dealing with poverty, health care, and homelessness. There is common ground," he tried again.

Not so quick, Krane replied, arguing that drug use should be treated as a public health problem, not the purview of law enforcement.

"Drug trafficking is not a public health problem, it's a law enforcement problem," Sabet countered.

"Drug trafficking is a prohibition problem, not a law enforcement problem," Krane retorted to cheers from the crowd.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ssdp08elevatorpanel.jpg
David Guard and Pete Guither prepare for ''Elevator Arguments'' panel
After the spirited back and forth between Sabet and Krane, attendees were treated to an address by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), who zeroed in on racial disparities in drug law enforcement. "One of the most egregious aspects of our drug policy is the racial inequity," he said, reeling off the now familiar statistics about African-Americans sucked into the drug war incarceration machine and urging support for re-entry and rehabilitation efforts for prisoners. "If we can reduce crime and recidivism, if we can help these prisoners, if we can train and educate them, we are helping all of America," Davis said.

Davis, too, pronounced himself optimistic. "There is a sense of hope that we can develop a sane policy in the way we treat drugs," he told the students, "but you have to stay engaged and involved. You have to believe change is not only possible, it's inevitable."

If Saturday was a day of panelists and speechifying, Sunday was for getting down to nuts and bolts as the young activists attended a plethora of sessions hosted by more experienced veterans. Students heard presentations on best practices for chapter organizing, fundraising, making quick reform arguments, networking, working the media, and working with youth communities, and looking beyond campus reform, among others. And the lunch session was a working one, with activists dividing up geographically and deciding on locations for regional conferences to be held in the spring.

From its beginning with a handful of students in the Northeast in 1998 outraged by the Higher Education Act's drug provision, SSDP has grown to an international organization with 140 campus chapters in the US, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Nigeria. With all they learned at this year's conference, the newest generation of drug reform activists is now headed back home to spread the message and the movement to the next generation.

Visit the Drug WarRant blog for Pete Guither's seven-part series of live-written reports from the conference.


UMD SSDP window, Stamp Student Center

Marijuana: Florida State Students Approve Marijuana-Alcohol Penalty Equalization Initiative

Students at Florida State University (FSU) have voted for the second time to urge administrators to lower penalties for on-campus possession to be equal to those for on-campus underage drinking. Students at FSU passed a similar measure in 2006.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fsu.jpg
FSU campus
In the October 15 election, 2,835 students voted on the equalization initiative. Some 1,850 voted in favor and 985 voted against, giving the measure 65% of the vote.

The initiative was sponsored by FSU NORML. Now, student leaders will use the vote to try to persuade campus administrators to heed the wishes of students.

FSU students have also signaled their support for broader marijuana law reform. In August, the FSU Student Government Association passed a resolution supporting Barney Frank's federal decriminalization bill.

"If the federal government decided that it was in their best interest to leave it up to the states to decide, it would leave the door open for us to further work on trying to get it decriminalized in Florida," said FSU NORML president John Mola.

The work by activists is paying off -- at least at the student politics level. FSU Sen. Forat Lufti, who is not a pro-legalization activist, said the votes showed that FSU students care deeply about marijuana policy.

"A lot of students feel strongly about the decriminalization of marijuana," Lutfi said. "As senators, it's our duty to represent the voice of all students. That was my main concern: to make sure their voice was heard," he said in reference to the August vote.

News Release: Will SDSU Drug Bust Coverage Raise the Critical Questions?

Will SDSU's Drug Bust Reduce Drug Availability on Campus in the Future? Advocates Urge Media to Look Beyond the Surface, Ask Critical Questions About Raid's Long-Term Implications for Drug Trade (or Lack Thereof) In the wake of a major drug bust at San Diego State University, in which 96 people including 75 students were arrested on drug charges as part of "Operation Sudden Fall," advocates are asking media outlets to go beyond the surface to probe whether drug laws and enforcement actually reduce the availability of drugs. "Cocaine was banned in 1914, and marijuana in 1937," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, "and yet these drugs are so widely available almost a century later that college students can be hauled away 75 at a time for them. That is the very definition of policy failure." Borden, who is also executive editor of Drug War Chronicle, a major weekly online publication, continued: "Since 1980, when the drug war really started escalating under the Reagan administration, the average street price of cocaine has dropped by a factor of five, when adjusted for purity and inflation. (1) Given that the strategy was to increase drug prices, in order to then reduce the demand, that failure has to be called spectacular." Drug arrests in the US number close to 1.5 million per year, but to little evident effect as such data suggests. Ironically, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis painted a compelling picture of the drug war's failure in her own quote given to the Los Angeles Times: "This operation shows how accessible and pervasive illegal drugs continue to be on our college campuses and how common it is for students to be selling to other students." "While SDSU's future drug sellers will probably avoid sending such explicit text messages as the accused in this case did, it's doubtful that they will avoid the campus for very long," Borden said. "In fact the replacements are undoubtedly already preparing to take up the slack. By September if not sooner, the only remaining evidence that 'Operation Sudden Fall' ever happened will be the court cases and the absence of certain people from the campus." "Instead of throwing away money and law enforcement time on a policy that doesn't work, ruining lives in the process, Congress should repeal drug prohibition and allow states to create sensible regulations to govern drugs' lawful distribution and use. At a minimum, the focus should be taken off enforcement," said Borden. — END — 1. Data from DEA STRIDE drug price collection program, adjusted for inflation using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index figures. Further information is available upon request.

SSDP HEA Week of Action

Within the next few months, the US House of Representatives will decide whether or not to continue denying financial aid to students with drug convictions. This is our chance to take this awful law off the books once and for all. We're being counted on by nearly 200,000 students who have been affected by the law, and by countless more who will be affected if we don't repeal it. That's why it's essential that every SSDP chapter band together and participate in the HEA Week of Action on October 15-19. Prior to the Week of Action, SSDP's national staff will send postcards and phone scripts that you can use to generate written communication and phone calls to Congress. But if you're feeling creative, we'd love for you to do something exciting to generate media around the issue. Visit http://www.ssdp.org/weekofaction for further information.
Date: 
Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:00am - Fri, 10/19/2007 - 6:00pm
Location: 
United States

Drug policy could be revamped by Fall Quarter

Location: 
OH
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Post (OH)
URL: 
http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu/articles/2007/05/15/news/20070.html

Cadet who is general's son faces drug charge

Location: 
West Point, NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
Times Herald-Record (NY)
URL: 
http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070321/NEWS/703210343

Another West Point cadet charged with drug use

Location: 
West Point, NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
Times Herald-Record (NY)
URL: 
http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070320/NEWS/703200342

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