Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SSDP Rocks the DPA Conference

SSDP brought the numbers, energy, and passion of youth to the Drug Policy Alliance conference last week in Albuquerque, NM. Over 60 SSDPers assembled at the final plenary of the conference, chanting "SSDP" and "Education Not Incarceration" so that not one of the over 1,000 conferees could ignore what we brought to the table: organization, unity, chanting.

Our section of the audience burst into boisterous applause when SSDPer, Nubia Legarda, rose to tell her story of drug war violence and her family in El Paso and neighboring Ciudad Juarez.

Nubia's moving story of the human toll of drug prohibition-caused violence highlighted one of the many negative but so often overlooked costs of our current drug policy.

SSDP chapter members, board and staff all helped raise our profile by working our table, presenting on panels, attending workshops, meeting new allies, granting interviews, and hosting a party at our SSDP rental townhouse.

Our huge presence at the DPA conference is just a taste of what people can expect from the upcoming SSDP international conference in San Francisco, CA, March 12-14, 2010.

Check out the videos of students from around the country who are looking for some scholarship funds to make it out to our conference.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Iowa SSDPer Engages Senator Grassley in Op-Ed

University of Iowa SSDP chapter leader, Marni Steadham, has not only gotten an excellent Op-Ed published in the Des Moines Register, but also succeeded in eliciting a response by US Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)!

Students can play a leading role in opening up an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternatives to the failed war on the pages of their state's largest newspaper no less!

Marni's OP-Ed does an excellent job of balancing between being too caustic/presumptuous while still challenging Sen. Grassley:
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley proposed an amendment to the bill that would prevent discussion or even examination of the possibility that drugs, including medical marijuana, should be decriminalized or legalized. Grassley's weak justification for attempting to suppress these viable policy options is: "The point is, for them to do what we tell them to do." This assertion undermines the very purpose of the commission: For experts to recommend to the Senate alternatives to our current approach to incarceration, regardless of whether these findings conflict with our current "get-tough" approach.
Sen. Grassley's response contains some head-scratching logic:
Finally, I put forward an amendment to address the issue of decriminalization and legalization of any controlled substance. I filed this amendment in an effort to start a debate on this important issue.
While his amendment has sparked some debate on the pages of the Des Moies Register and admirable actions by groups like LEAP, it's hard to see how restricting a commission from considering what is arguably the most sensible means of reducing our prison population will allow for serious consideration of this "important issue."

An examination of decriminalization or legalization in a national commission would not preclude such a discussion in Congress. In fact, it may demonstrate to many legislators the increasing evidence from either our past or from overseas that these alternatives are not only effective at reducing the harms associated with drug use, but also can keep thousands of non-violent offenders from wasting their time and our money behind bars.