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Job Opportunity: Outreach Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, San Francisco, CA or Washington, DC

Outreach Director: Based in San Francisco, CA or Washington, DC Application deadline: Friday, April 3 Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a grassroots political advocacy organization with a member network of thousands and a national staff of six, is seeking a highly motivated, well-organized individual to help promote alternatives to the failed War on Drugs. This is a full- time, entry-level position that is ideal for a person with prior student organizing experience. SSDP currently employs two outreach directors. Due to the growing demand for our advocacy, we are hiring a third outreach director, who will be based in San Francisco, CA or Washington, DC. Interested individuals may apply for the position in either location. Although our intention is to fill the position starting in April, graduating seniors will be considered. If you cannot start full-time before May or June, we will consider starting the position on a part- time basis prior to graduation. Duties of the outreach director include: 1) Assisting students who wish to start SSDP chapters: The outreach director receives several chapter startup inquiries each day. He/she promptly responds to each inquiry and guides the student through the process of establishing a chapter on campus. The outreach director is also responsible for the development of trainings and materials that will benefit students working to start new chapters. Information on new chapter progress is tracked using database software. 2) Proactive recruitment: The outreach director proactively recruits new students to start chapters by tabling at schools, concerts, conferences and other events. He/she is sometimes asked to travel for a week or more to a specific state or region with the goal of identifying students interested in drug policy reform. 3) Providing campaign support to established chapters: The outreach director works with the associate director on developing materials and the execution of grassroots campaigns. The associate director takes the lead on creating resources for campaigns, while the outreach director works with new and inexperienced chapters on implementation. 4) Event planning: The outreach director coordinates events that require many different components (e.g. outreach, logistics, materials, etc). These events include international and regional conferences, small fundraising events, campaign rallies, and demonstrations. The outreach director is trained and supervised by the associate director, and reports directly to the executive director. Qualifications include a passion for getting young people involved in the political process; exceptional interpersonal skills, particularly when meeting new people; the ability to communicate orally with comfort and conviction, particularly over the phone; succinct, persuasive, inspiring writing, plus a close attention to detail; comfort with working nontraditional hours (occasional nights and weekends), as this is when students are most available; a desire to travel, and the ability to work well away from the office; experience working with and managing volunteers; and a firm belief that students will play a key role in ending the War on Drugs. Qualities/abilities that are valuable, but not necessary, include a demonstrated dedication to drug policy reform; experience with student organizing & activism; and a working knowledge of Apple products, Microsoft Excel, and Facebook. To apply, interested applicants should e-mail a one-page cover letter and one- or two-page resume to Executive Director Kris Krane at [email protected]. In your cover letter, please indicate (1) how you learned about SSDP’s job opening, (2) why you are interested in working with SSDP, (3) why you think this particular position is a good fit for you, (4) what experience you have in student organizing or drug policy reform work and (5) which of our offices you are interested in working from (San Francisco, CA or Washington, DC) and if your desired location is flexible. Feel free to include any additional information you deem relevant, not to exceed one page. Salary is $28,000 - $32,000, commensurate with experience. Benefits include health care and the satisfaction that comes along with changing the world for the better. Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an equal opportunity employer. SSDP has a strong commitment to diversity and, as such, women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and individuals who have been directly affected by the Drug War are encouraged to apply. If you submit a cover letter and resume, SSDP will respond to you within two weeks with either a request for additional documentation, or notification that your application is being considered. Please visit http://www.SchoolsNotPrisons.com for more information about our mission and campaigns.
Location: 
United States

Methamphetamine: Bill Equating Meth Use with Child Abuse Passes New Mexico House

The New Mexico House voted 67-3 Saturday to approve a bill that makes using or possessing methamphetamine in a home where minors are present child abuse. At least three other states -- Iowa, Michigan, and South Dakota -- have already approved similar laws.

The bill, HB 117, amends the state's child abuse and neglect statute to include the following language: "Evidence that demonstrates a child has been knowingly, intentionally or negligently exposed to the use of methamphetamine shall be deemed prima facie evidence of abuse of the child."

While "meth equals child abuse" laws may be well-intentioned, critics say they do more harm than good. When Drug War Chronicle covered this issue in 2006, Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform called them cruel and "ineffective."

"If the idea is to help children, these kinds of laws are extremely ineffective," said Wexler, head of the coalition and a harsh critic of the nation's child protection services. "If the idea is to drive women underground and leave the children far worse off, it's extremely effective. These laws hurt the children they are allegedly intended to help. Listen, you can't be a meth addict and be a good parent, but further criminalizing them doesn't help anything. The key is to offer treatment. If you simply confiscate the kids, then they wind up in America's dreadful foster care system, bounced from home to home, unable to form lasting bonds with anyone," he told the Chronicle.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women generally concentrates on the distinct -- but closely related -- issue of the plight of drug using expectant mothers (12 states and DC charge drug using mothers as child abusers, and 12 more have specific reporting procedures for infants who test positive at birth), but the group is also concerned about the meth as child abuse laws.

"This completely misses the boat if we're talking about the public health angle," said Wyndi Anderson, national educator for the group. "We try really hard to get a lot of women access to a whole range of public health services. They need addiction treatment. Automatically labeling them child abusers doesn't help them at all, it only helps get them into prison and their children into foster care," she told the Chronicle.

"These laws are an exercise in showboating," said Wexler. "The legislators want to look like they're cracking down on drugs and child abuse, but since it is already child abuse to commit an act that actually harms a child, these laws are redundant. All they do is frighten people away and take away one way to reach out to addicted parents and get the help that will help -- not hurt -- their children."

"When you equate meth use with child abuse, you create the possibility of a witch hunt," Anderson warned. "We want to keep communities healthy and families intact, and these kinds of laws will just bust up both. If you believe in family values, I don't see how you could be for something like this."

The bill now heads for the New Mexico Senate.

Press Release: CA Student Survey -- MJ Use Stable, RX Abuse High

For Immediate Release: Jan 30, 2009 CALIFORNIA SURVEY SHOWS STUDENT MARIJUANA USE STABLE, PRESCRIPTION DRUG USE HIGH The newly released biennial Attorney General's Survey of Student Drug Use in California shows that marijuana use among 7th. 9th and 11th graders remained stable during 2007-8, but reports an "alarming rate" of prescription drug abuse. "The survey confirms that California's medical marijuana law has had no adverse impact on youth marijuana use," comments California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer. "At the same time, it shows that youth prescription drug use has been seriously underestimated in the past." Marijuana use been declining to stable ever since passage of California's medical marijuana law in 1996. For a graph, see http://www.canorml.org/prop/studentMJuse.html. According to the latest report, "Since 2003, use in the past six months has remained stable at 7% in 7th grade, 20% in 9th and 31% in 11th grade." "The most significant but disturbing overall finding of the 12th biennial survey is - because of underassessment of recreational use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs - we have previously underestimated actual levels of youth substance use. New data shows that 37 percent of 9th and 50 percent of 11th graders used either an illicit/illegal drug or a diverted prescription drug to get high at least once in their lifetime. Taking this into consideration, total lifetime use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use is estimated at 52 percent and 69 percent respectively. Including use of cold/cough medicines to get high, lifetime AOD 9th- grade use rises to 60 percent and 11th- grade use to 74 percent." http://safestate.org/index.cfm?navId=254 CALIFORNIA STUDENT SURVEY (CSS) 12TH BIENNIAL CALIFORNIA STUDENT SURVEY, 2007-08 Welcome to the 12th biennial California Student Survey (CSS) that was conducted during the 2007-08 school year by the Crime and Violence Prevention Center, California Attorney General's Office. This statewide biennial research continues the important work, which started in 1985, of collecting substance use data from the students themselves. Participating in the 12th CSS were 13,930 students from 115 public middle and high schools. From the reported data, the preliminary findings indicate three major trends of the 2007-08 CSS: (1) Prescription drug use by California youth is occurring at an alarming rate. (2) First-time data collected on the use of over-the-counter drugs indicate many teens are taking them to get "high." (3) Heavy users of illicit substances are still a significant group in California, a trend noted as early as the 1999 CSS. The most significant but disturbing overall finding of the 12th biennial survey is - because of underassessment of recreational use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs - we have previously underestimated actual levels of youth substance use. New data shows that 37 percent of 9th and 50 percent of 11th graders used either an illicit/illegal drug or a diverted prescription drug to get high at least once in their lifetime. Taking this into consideration, total lifetime use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use is estimated at 52 percent and 69 percent respectively. Including use of cold/cough medicines to get high, lifetime AOD 9th- grade use rises to 60 percent and 11th- grade use to 74 percent. The preliminary 2007-08 findings support a couple of conclusions reached in our 2005 CSS report: Prevention efforts may be "bottoming-out" and further reductions in overall prevalence may be more difficult to achieve; also, there should be specific intervention aimed at youth who are at risk of heavy and problematic substance use. Download: 12th biennial California Student Survey's Report of Highlights 12th biennial California Student Survey's Compendium of Tables 12th biennial CSS - Current Substance Use Among California Secondary Students - PowerPoint Presentation Excerpt from report at http://safestate.org/documents/CSS_12th_Highlights_Report.pdf Marijuana As shown in Figure 3, among 7th grade students there is relatively little difference between lifetime, six- month and 30-day prevalence of marijuana use (9%, 7% and 7%, respectively), reflecting that many 12- and 13-year-olds had tried marijuana only recently. Predictably, lifetime use increases dramatically to 25% in 9th grade and 42% in 11th, while differences between lifetime and current use rates widen. Current rates, in past 30 days, were 15% in 9th and 24% in 11th, about 60% of lifetime use in both grades. Since 2003, use in the past six months has remained stable at 7% in 7th grade, 20% in 9tand 31% in 11th. (Tables 2.2, 2.6-2.9, & 2.13) -- Dale Gieringer - [email protected] California NORML, 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114 -(415) 563- 5858 - www.canorml.org

Press Release: CA Student Survey Finds Drug Use More Prevalent than Previously Thought

For Immediate Release: January 29, 2009 Contact: Rod Skager at 831-594-0483 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 California Student Survey Finds Drug Use More Prevalent than Previously Thought 3/4th of 11th Grade Students Report Using at Least One Drug Abstinence-Only Drug Education Failing Students; Need for Comprehensive Drug Education with Focus on Safety The 12th biennial California Student Survey (CSS) released this week by the Attorney General's Office's challenges the nation to reassess the nature and frequency of youth drug use. This statewide survey, founded by Professor Rodney Skager in 1985, collected substance use data from 13,930 students from 115 public middle and high schools in the 2007-08 school year. The report concludes that both state and national surveys, including the National Monitoring the Future Survey, have significantly underestimated true levels of substance use among secondary school students. The primary reason has been failure to provide a measure of total use that includes alcohol. The current (2007-2008) CSS combines for the first time alcohol, illicit drugs, diverted prescription drugs and cold/cough medications (used to get high) into a total percentage of respondents who tried at least one such drug in their lifetime. The result is that 60% or 9th and 74% of 11th grade students reported using one of the substances at least once. It is important to note that the great majority of youth who experiment do not become regular drug users and for a significant number of substances once was apparently sufficient. Professor Skager points out that, "By taking into account the entire range of drugs, of which alcohol is by far the most commonly used, it is obvious that the social climate among youth tolerates widespread drug experimentation and use, though not necessarily use that causes problems to self or others. We need to take this cultural reality into account in our approach to drug education and other approaches to prevention. In this climate simplistic abstinence messages, as well as accurate, information, are met with skepticism and may result in an oppositional or 'boomerang' effect." Rodney Skager, Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is the author of Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Reality-Based Approach to Drug Education and School Discipline published by the Drug Policy Alliance. The educational booklet advocates for educating students through comprehensive, interactive and honest drug education with identification of, and assistance for, students whose lives are disrupted by substance use. "To prevent adolescents who do experiment from falling into abusive patterns, we need to create fallback strategies that focus on safety," Skager said. "Putting safety first requires that we be careful to provide our young people with credible information and resources. We also need to teach our teenagers how to identify and handle problems with alcohol and other drugs -- if and when they occur-and how to get help and support." The new Obama Administration has the opportunity to replace failed Bush Administration strategies such as the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and the Random Student Drug Testing Grants Program. Research shows both programs are not only ineffective, but also counterproductive to promoting healthy behaviors in students. The Obama Administration should replace fear-based approaches with programs that promote honest, open and respectful discussion with teens about their experiences and the realities of drugs and drug use today. * The 2007-2008 California Student Survey is available online at: http://www.safestate.org/index.cfm?navID=254 * Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Reality-Based Approach to Drug Education and School Discipline is available online at: www.safety1st.org.
Location: 
CA
United States

Methamphetamine: Grassley, Feinstein Reintroduce Candy-Flavored Meth Bill, Despite Little Evidence the Stuff Even Exists

A year and a half ago, word started spreading from isolated law enforcement sources that candy-flavored methamphetamine was showing up in drug busts. Seeing a new, candy-flavored drug bogeyman just around the corner and an opportunity to look tough on drugs, Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) quickly responded with the Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act, which would increase the penalties for dealers peddling flavored meth to any buyers to match those for dealers who actually sold drugs to kids.

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strawberry-flavored meth, or just colored meth?
That bill went nowhere in 2007 or last year, and the candy-flavored meth story was quickly debunked by, among others, Join Together's Bob Curley, who penned Meth Ado About Nothing? in June 2007, and the urban myth web site Snopes.com, which addressed the issue at about the same time. Both articles suggested authorities may have mistakenly attributed flavors to meth that was merely colored.

Despite horrified warnings from different law enforcement sources and hysterical reporting by various local media outlets around the country, nobody ever seemed able to actually come up with any candy-flavored meth, let alone any nefarious schemes to entice kids with sweetened drugs in an effort to crack the pre-pubescent meth market. Still, the threat of candy-flavored meth continues to surface periodically, although not for the past few months. Most recently, the (false) alarm was sounded in Florida in February and Southwest Virginia in March.

The lack of evidence for any real problem with candy-flavored meth hasn't stopped the drug-fightin' senatorial duo, though. In a Monday press release, Grassley announced that he and Feinstein were reintroducing the Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act. It was as if the debunking of the myth had never occurred.

"The candy-flavored meth bill comes after reports detailing the growing trend of candy-flavored meth," the press release breathlessly, if belatedly, warned. "According to law enforcement officers and drug treatment officials, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs are being colored, packaged and flavored in ways designed to attract children and minors."

"It's disturbing that drug dealers are trying to lure teens and young kids by flavoring drugs to taste like candy. This latest craze needs to be dealt with before it's too late," Grassley said. "We've also got to make sure our law enforcement has the tools they need to adequately enforce the laws we pass. The legislation that Senator Feinstein and I have introduced should make drug dealers think twice about selling candy flavored drugs to our kids and help law enforcement keep the Combat Meth Act effective."

Under federal law, anyone who sells drugs to someone under 21 faces a mandatory minimum one-year prison sentence and a sentencing enhancement that doubles the sentence, or triples it for a repeat offense. Under the Feinstein-Grassley bill, the same penalty would also apply to anyone who "manufactures, creates, distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute a controlled substance that is flavored, colored, packaged or otherwise altered in a way that is designed to make it more appealing to a person under 21 years of age, or who attempts or conspires to do so."

In addition to addressing a problem that doesn't exist, the bill is written so vaguely as to apply to all kinds of illicit drug packaging. Would an ecstasy tablet stamped with a cartoon image qualify? How about heroin packaged under cute names? How about marijuana in a baggie with a smiley face sticker? For answers, you will have to consult your local federal prosecutor. Or, if there is any sense in Washington, this bill will meet the same ignominious fate as its predecessor and be assigned to the dustbin of history.

Search and Seizure: Supreme Court to Hear Case of School Girl Strip-Searched for Ibuprofen

The US Supreme Court agreed last Friday to review the case of a 13-year-old honor student who was subjected to a strip search by school officials looking for prescription-strength Ibuprofen. In doing so, it will once again revisit the contentious topic of just how far school officials can go in performing anti-drug searches that would be considered unconstitutional if conducted outside the school setting.

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US Supreme Court
The case had its genesis in the 2003 search of then 8th-grade honor student Savana Redding after another student who had been found with Ibuprofen pills in violation of school policy said Redding had given her the pills. Redding denied having provided any pills. School officials searched Redding's locker and belongings and found nothing. They then made Redding strip to her bra and underwear and ordered her, in the words of the appeal court, "to pull her bra out to the side and shake it" and "pull out her underwear at the crotch and shake it." No pills were found.

Redding's mother filed a lawsuit challenging the strip search as unconstitutional and seeking damages from the school district. A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit against school officials, ruling that they were immune from suit. A three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, but was overturned in a 6-5 vote by the full court, which ruled that the suit could go forward against the assistant principal who ordered the search.

The 9th Circuit majority was scathing in its opinion. "It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority, quoting a decision in another case. "More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity."

But in his dissent, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins said that while the case was "a close call" given the "humiliation and degradation" endured by Redding, school officials were "not unreasonable" in ordering the search. "I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students. I would find this search constitutional," he wrote, "and would certainly forgive the Safford officials' mistake as reasonable."

Now, the Supreme Court must decide two questions: "Whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits school officials from conducting a search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing prescription drugs, and whether the 9th Circuit departed from established principles of qualified immunity in holding that a public school administrator may be liable in a damages lawsuit for conducting a search of a student."

The case is Redding v. Safford Unified School District #1, or, as it is now known with the school district appealing, Safford Unified School District v. Redding.

Student Drug Testing: ACLU Sues Northern California High School Over New Expanded Policy

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Northern California chapter has joined with a small number of students and their parents in filing a lawsuit against the Shasta Union High School District, charging that its newly-expanded drug testing policy for students violates the state constitution. The move came after the district failed to act to address ACLU concerns over the new policy.

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drug testing lab
Under previous district drug testing policy, only students involved in athletics were subject to suspicionless random drug testing. But earlier this year, the school board expanded the program to include students who participate in choir, band, drama and other competitive co-curricular and extracurricular school programs at the district's three main high schools. It also required students and their parents to consent to the drug testing regime in order for students to be able to use school computers.

Such requirements violate the students' right to privacy, equal protection, and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the state constitution, the ACLU argued in its filing. The group and the plaintiffs seek an injunction blocking the drug testing program to avoid "irreparable harm" to the students.

But last week, the district was still talking tough. The district's new drug testing policy is "within the confines of the law," Superintendent Jim Cloney, who is named as a defendant in the law suit, told the Redding News. "We've discussed it," Cloney said. "The board chose to follow the policy as it's written."

The district doesn't have to waste its money defending an unconstitutional drug testing policy, said the Northern California ACLU's Michael Risher. "We are still... happy to speak with the district and try and resolve the issue," he said.

In the meantime, the Shasta school board can continue to throw away money as it tilts after windmills.

High School Seniors Are Using Lots of LSD This Year

Jacob Sullum pokes numerous holes in the drug czar’s recent claims of dramatic drug war progress. This in particular jumped out at me:

…if Walters wants to take credit for every drop in drug use that occurs on his watch, he'll have to take the blame for the enormous increases in past-month LSD use among high school seniors and  past-month methamphetamine use among sophomores, both of which nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 (hitting a whopping 1.1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively).

Be careful out there, kids! Thanks to the total failure of the war on drugs, you are up to your asses in acid and meth, but seriously, do not mix them. It will suck. You’ll get arrested (and probably tasered, too).

See, contrary to the drug czar’s wild accusations, those of us who want to end the drug war have no interest in seeing young people make poor choices. And the fact that America’s high schools are overflowing with acid and speed ought to help illustrate why closing the black market is actually a perfectly rational approach to keeping powerful drugs away from our kids.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

SSDP's 10th Annual Conference & Alumni Reunion

Students for Sensible Drug Policy invites you to join hundreds of students, alumni and drug policy reform advocates from around the world in creating our future – a future that includes an informed and humane approach to dealing with drug use and abuse issues, a future where drug policies are just and sensible. This year, for our 10th Anniversary Conference, we will be focusing on a theme of making connections, of bridging political divides, of reconnecting alumni who have lost touch, and of magnifying the diversity of our advocacy network – a theme of “Connecting the Dots.” We expect this year to be our biggest yet, with chapters representing all four corners of the United States plus Canada, Great Britain and Nigeria. Hundreds of SSDP members, alumni, and supporters will be there. Will you? For complete information, including registration, see http://ssdp.org/conference08/.
Date: 
Fri, 11/21/2008 - 9:00am - Sun, 11/23/2008 - 5:00pm
Location: 
College Park, MD
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School