Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roosevelt University SSDP Students Advocate for Fair Sentencing

One of the most important things SSDP chapters can do is to create a public space for dialog to effect real changes in the community. Roosevelt University SSDP did an awesome job this week highlighting the work they have been doing and getting others engaged in the current drug policy debate - and they even got some press out of it.

Specifically, students came together to discuss the importance of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act after meeting with US Senator Dick Durbin's staff to discuss the topic. (Durbin, D-IL, introduced the bill in 2009 - S. 1789.) On March 17th, it passed the US Senate by unanimous consent! We do still need this to pass in the House as well, but the outlook is positive.

The Fair Sentencing Act would do away with the 1986 Mandatory Minimum Sentences for crack cocaine possession. Currently individuals in possession of crack cocaine must serve a minimum sentence 100 times that of those in possession of powder cocaine. This act would reduce that disparity to 18-1. Not ideal, but at least a little better.

According to Laura Reichel, President of Roosevelt University SSDP, “The rates of drug use across racial groups is pretty equal. But the previous law has contributed to the disproportionate number of African-Americans that are in prison to whites.”

The racial implications of our failed drug policies is blatant. Kudos to Roosevelt SSDP for doing something about it!

Western Michigan University Hosts LEAP Speaker

Western Michigan University SSDP hosted Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Greg Francisco. Check out the article in their campus newspaper about the event.

It's great coverage of the event I hope it inspires other chapters to put on events like this and reach out to their campus paper each time they do so. It provided the WMU chapter with a way to get the word out about SSDP to their entire campus.

I particularly like this part:
SSDP also used the event to introduce themselves to the student body and begin to achieve some of their organizational goals. Led by President Alexander Lanning, the group both registered voters and gathered petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot to give marijuana possession a lower law enforcement priority in Kalamazoo.

Lanning also gave a short address to the students in attendance, contending that SSDP was motivated by political beliefs and goals, not by personal gain.

“We’re not just a bunch of smokers looking to legalize weed,” he said.
The title of the article, "Retired law enforcement officer calls for relaxed drug laws," seems to miss the point of the presentation though. What LEAP is actually discussing is that our drug regulations are currently relaxed enough that young people report purchasing marijuana in school easier than they can purchase alcohol at a store. They're calling for heightened regulation and increased control around drugs.

Want to book a LEAP speaker? Join us on Cinco de Mayo for SSDP's Day of Action where chapters around the country will draw attention to the drug war's impact on Mexico. Sign up here and indicate that you would like to bring a LEAP speaker to your campus and we'll help you make it happen!