Action in thiNortheast
East Coast students push legislatures to pass marijuana-law reform.
When do you think marijuana will be legal? Five years? Twenty years? In your lifetime? Students for Sensible Drug Policy is working round the clock to make it happen sooner rather than later.
Although California and other Western states have been drug-policy reform pioneers in the past, some of the most recent and exciting developments toward a more sensible approach to marijuana laws have happened in states in the Northeast! It’s a totally different political ballgame here on the East Coast, which provides a challenge that our SSDP chapters have been happy to embrace.
SSDPers in Massachusetts helped to pass Question 2 in 2008, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In Connecticut, our student members have testified before the state legislature in support of a similar measure. And with medical marijuana now on the horizon in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, DC, our chapters in the Northeast are excited to be a part of the driving force for reform.
Last summer, the Rhode Island Legislature made a bold political statement by overriding the governor's veto of medical-marijuana legislation dealing with dispensaries. Now that the law has taken effect, Rhode Island is the first state to establish a state-licensed nonprofit center to provide cannabis to patients with a doctor's prescription. These developments in marijuana policy would not have been possible without the efforts of SSDP chapter leaders and members in the state.
A few years ago, SSDPers at our Brown University chapter founded the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, a nonprofit organization focused on advocating for legal medical marijuana. RIPAC is composed of current and former SSDP members, who continue to impact state policy through effective student and community organizing. Since their victorious statewide medical-marijuana campaign, Brown University SSDPers have been working to implement harmreduction policies and practices regarding drug use on campus, as well as developing fact-based brochures with information about specific drugs such as MDMA.
A few months after the victory in Rhode Island, our chapter at the University of Maine at Farmington played an important role in helping to pass Issue 5, a state medical-marijuana initiative that makes Maine the third state to establish a nonprofit-dispensary model (following in the footsteps of Rhode Island and New Mexico). Currently, our UMF chapter is working on needle-exchange and other harm-reduction programs at the community level, as well as working with the college administration to establish a harm-reduction center on campus to provide fact-based drug information, among other useful resources.
Ending marijuana prohibition is one of the first steps toward a more logical crimina1'~ justice system.
Ending marijuana prohibition is one of the first steps toward a more compassionate, logical and effective criminal-justice system, but we need all the help we can get in order to build a strong enough movement for reform. Please check out the activism section on the HIGH TIMES website to learn more about the injustices that result from US drug prohibition.
Also, SSDP and HIGH TIMES would love to hear your story about how you've worked to advance the debate regarding drug-policy reform as a student. Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis, should be approximately 600 words, and should be sent to staciaOssdp.org. If your submission is chosen for publication, your chapter will receive $250! And even if it isn't selected to run in the print edition, it could still be posted as a blog on the HIGH TIMES website.
Finally, check out hightimes.com/ssdp/ for an in-depth profile of Micah Daigle, the executive director of SSDP, and look for this column (which will be written by students in different SSDP chapters every month) in future issues of HIGH TIMES. If you want to learn more about SSDP or how you can get involved, you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Or you can contact us through our website: www.schoolsnotprisons.com. ^
Stacia Cosner is the Outreach Director, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions, for SSDP.