Lewis & Clark College located in Portland, OR, has jumped right into forming an active student group with a focus on reforming Oregon's marijuana laws. One thing I been incredibly impressed with is chapter founder Christopher Van Putten's enthusiasm and his ability to get the Lewis & Clark chapter officially recognized and up in running in just about one week! I asked Chris a few questions about his experiences with SSDP so far.
How did you find out about SSDP and what made you want to start a chapter?
I was first introduces to Students for Sensible Drug Policy when I matriculated to Lewis & Clark College. A skit was performed about alcohol policy at the college and while there was no chapter at our college, SSDP was somehow involved. I didn't pay the organization any attention until returning to Lewis & Clark this spring. I worked for four months last spring on Washington State's marijuana legalization initiative as a county volunteer coordinator. I followed the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2010 which was mostly ignored in light of Oregon's measure to create medical cannabis dispensaries. My creation of the Lewis & Clark chapter has been motivated mostly by my interest in seeing the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012 qualify for the ballot, then pass when voted on.
Was getting your chapter started a challenge? Fortunately Lewis & Clark College is quite hospitable to students who are interested in creating new student organizations. After about a week of planning and finding a faculty advisor I signed on as the primary student contact with another reformer signing on as secondary contact. Our chapter was officially recognized by the school about one week after I decided to create the chapter. We also lucked out on applying for a budget at the right time. Two weeks after our certification we had a scheduled hearing with the Finance Committee to propose a budget for the 2011-2012 academic year.
What campaigns does Lewis & Clark SSDP plan to work on? Lewis & Clark College SSDP has already been working on the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012 which would legalize the Cannabis genus, both industrial hemp as well as marijuana for adults 21 and over. The act creates a new committee called the Oregon Cannabis Commission and places a structure of growth and sale of cannabis is a fashion akin to liquor. The act also legalizes adult (21 and over) cultivation of marijuana without sale. We are also working on Washington State's I-1149 which removes all civil and criminal penalties for adults 18 and over relating to cannabis, except driving under the influence.
Do you have any advice for other new chapter leaders? Fortunately Lewis & Clark has a very cannabis-friendly student body. This has been a wonderful tool for establishing the organization, already having petitions in hand when recruiting members into the organization. If you already have an item to work on, prospective chapter members will be more engaged knowing that you already know one campaign you'll be working on.