Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Students make a difference

As reported below by Joe Bartlett, Rhode Island became the 11th state to effectively protect medical marijuana patients from arrest yesterday. This historic legislative action comes after two years of intense work by many people. Patients, doctors, legislators, lobbyists, nurses, opinion columnists, nonprofit organizers, and many other people all played important roles in making this victory a reality.

But one category of advocates has thus far gone unrecognized: Students.

While the medical marijuana bill certainly would not and could not have passed without the important work of the abovementioned people, the effort never would have gotten off the ground if it weren't for the ideas and ambition of a small but dedicated group of SSDP members from the University of Rhode Island and Brown University.

It was these students who first realized that Rhode Island was primed for legislative change. They made a clear and convincing case to national advocates to invest time, energy, and resources into the small state. And it worked.

But the students didn't just realize that Rhode Island was ready for action, they took action themselves. These full-time college students somehow found the time to build an impressive coalition of prominent organizations and medical professionals under the banner of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. They developed important relationships with legislators. And they kept working as hard as they could until the bill passed.

While I am one of the handful of students who got this campaign off the ground, I am only one of the many who eventually dedicated so much time, energy, and emotion to ultimately fostering this historic victory. When I moved to Washington, DC last year to work in the SSDP national office, I was sad that I wouldn't be able to devote as much of myself to the Rhode Island medical marijuana effort as I previously had. But I am absolutely in awe of the URI and Brown students who kept the campaign going stronger than ever before. You should be proud of yourselves. I'm sure as hell proud of you.

And what happened in Rhode Island is only one example of the power SSDPers have to make change. For proof, look no further than the successful marijuana initiatives passed in Columbia, MO or the anti-drug testing bill passed in California, just to name a few examples.

I want all the students reading this from around the country to fully realize that their valiant efforts can make and are truly making a difference. I know in my heart that SSDPers won't stop until we end this unjust and destructive Drug War. Too much is at stake for us to give up now.

Onward to the next battle!


Justin Holmes said...

I could not be more happy for these students and former-students, my friends, for this victory.

Although it is a small change in policy (in a wonderfully small state ;-)), the fact that students spearheaded this effort, kept putting effort toward it during good times and bad, and saw it through to the end says something about student activism, the fate of the drug war, and the power of our generation.

Although many, many students, including Kat, N. Lepp, Jesse Brown, Noel (no mew), Ben Kintish, Erin, Hearther, Joe Perri, and lots more were involved in this effort, I'd like to take this oppurtunity to recognize and congradulate two in particular.

Micah Daigle and Tom Angell, two of my best and deepest friends, have never failed to impress and astound me, even in times of great frustration and consternation over our disagreements about the future of SSDP.

Without these two unpatriotic, drug-frenzied rabel-rousers, the great Johnny Q. Walters would have a much easier, more relaxed daily life.

Moreover, patients in the state of Rhode Island would continue to be in dire straights.

Good job boys. I *love* you.

Micah Daigle said...

Thanks Justin...

I hate to get into a silly war of "No, you're the man!"; "NO, you're the MAN!!"; No, she's the woman!!"; "No, but he definitely did WAY more work"...

But there were many people who have not yet been mentioned. Off the top of my head are: Trevor Stutz, Mara, Kai, Ross, JBogue (mad postcards), Brendan, and more and more and more...

All members of URI and Brown SSDP did HUGE amounts of work on this, and many did FAR more work than I was able to.

The fact is, most of us are full-time college students, many of which are forced to hold down jobs just to pay for college. We put in as much as we could, and it payed off... but there is so much more to be done.

I am filled with confidence that SSDP is cultivating some of the most saavy activists this movement has ever seen, and we will see a quicker end to the drug war if SSDP continues with its commitment of cultivating chapter-leadership.

You are one of many who continue to inspire me, J.Holmes. I love you all.

Onward indeed, my Angell.

Jesse Stout said...

So Justin,
How's mmj doing in NY these days?
Anything we can do in conjunction with the New Paltz 2006 Northeast Regional Conference?
Jesse "Brown" Stout

800 pound gorilla said...

The irony is that medical marijuana patients do have a drug dependency on marijuana. They use the drug to help their body recover from illnesses. If they don't use the drug it hinders recovery and brings on dire health consequences. People who become addicted through social use of marijuana are NOT drug dependent. They may experience discomforting withdrawal symptoms from cessation of use but no dire health consequences.

One "side effect" of drug war propaganda is that addiction and dependency are used [and abused] interchangeably and incorrectly. I have more details of language pollution at my Unfortunately, while I use the words correctly as defined by my site, I don't include a glossary of terms in the published book. You can't get instantly addicted - that takes time. You can become instantly drug dependent. Ask anyone who is a diabetic or asthmatic. You stop using your drugs your health condition flares up.

Micah Daigle said...

800 lb gorilla:

You may have an interesting point... but why don't you go back to some of the other posts and respond to the tough questions asked of you instead of shamelessly self-promoting yourself time and time again??

Your comment has little to do with student involvement in changing RI's medical marijuana law, and seems to be yet another unrelated observation meant at selling your book (a book that, as all evidence indicates, is of questionable accuracy and quality).

These comment sections should be used for discussion, not as advertising space. If you fail to respond to any of the folks who have taken the time to question your other comments, I'll be forced to delete your future comments (advertisements).

Don't take this as a threat of censorship, but rather an attempt to keep these comment sections filled with meaningful discussion.

Anonymous said...

I cannot help but weigh in here: I watched from the sidelines as Tom Angell led the URI SSDP to its status as a powerful and efficacious student organization, not merely on our campus but in the entire State of Rhode Island. Tom's vision and patience find reward in the RI passage of the medical marijuana bill, in the OVERRIDE of the governor's veto. A legislative override: That sort of political will does not emerge overnight. If it were not for Tom and his canny, strategic cultivation (and education) of state lawmakers and policy brokers, this would not have happened. We should call this passage the Tom Angell accord. Well done kiddo! Cherylf

Adam Scavone said...

I'll add my name to the big fat round of applause here..the RI crew did an outstanding job, and I know they put their hearts and souls into this. Congratulations, everybody, you earned it.

Jesse, I'll answer to the best of my ability: after the Raich decision, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno abandoned ship on medical marijuana (on the very same day RI's senate voted 34-2 in favor, I do believe). He said he didn't want to put patients under the illusion that they were protected under the law. So instead of getting NY police off their backs and leaving the choice to them as to whether or not they wanted to risk showdowns with the feds, he just bailed on the whole issue and said he wanted to wait for Congress to act.

I fired off my first letter contrasting the Rhode Island legislature's actions to Mr. Bruno's, and plan to fire off a couple more. MPP's got a new click-'n'-send letter for anyone of a mind, and anyone else in New York that's working on anything or knows what's going on, please do share here.

Anyway, congratulations again to the Rhode Islanders, especially Tom and Micah.

Justin Holmes said...

800#: It is not ironic that patients are dependant on their medicine, marijuana or otherwise, and some patients and addicts might take offense to the fact that you have labeled it "irony." Dependence, whether medical in origin or not, is a way of life – the irony comes as a result of government involvement in the issue. Let’s please be clear about that.

Furthermore, I disagree strongly in your assessment that people who use marijuana socially are not drug dependant. I use marijuana in many different ways - socially, spiritually, and in my daily grind the way some people use caffeine. I consider myself dependant on marijuana.

However, I don't see dependence as a categorically bad thing - I am dependant on oxygen, water, pillows, and the internet as well. Choosing and guiding dependencies might be the most important factor in whether or not our relationships with drugs and other addictive elements become problematic.

I mostly agree with Micah - this post in particular is not the best venue for what you are trying to say. I notice that you have a blog - why not post this stuff there?

I do appreciate your continual participation and hope you keep it up, but it would be great if we could engage seriously in the questions which have been asked of you in the comments of other posts.

800 pound gorilla said...

I'm not a person who stigmatizes any drug use. I'm not a person who uses drug dependency to describe a drug addiction. Those terms aren't interchangeable. The problems with addiction result from the adjustments the body makes to long-term use. The problems with dependency relate to the problems with the condition that the drug is being used to treat. I have a drug dependency for asthma. I run over an hour a day and eat healthily and take care of myself. Many other people don't bring on their drug dependencies either. We should stop using stigmatization to justify drug prohibition.

800 pound gorilla said...

Actually, dependence on drugs is almost exclusively medicinal in nature. The only people who have a drug dependency on meth are those people being treated with meth for narcolepsy. If they don't use the drug their narcolepsy reemerges. Like former columnist James Kilpatrick, one of my biggest complaints on this issue is how people misuse language to play on peoples' emotions to justify a very bad policy.
When I mention that a dependency on drugs for medical reasons should be treated exactly the same as a dependency for recreational purposes [again, even I misuse words: recreational dependencies are extremely rare to almost nonexistent because by definition dependencies result from outside causes that are treated by drugs - not the drugs themselves; their effects are in addictions] people recoil in horror! My teacher uses drugs for diabetes; she shouldn't be stigmatized for that. It's unfair for you to make such a statement. I stand by the statement but disavow the stigmatization. That was done years ago by people who enacted drug laws. Drug prohibition serves one and only one purpose: punishing people for addiction and dependency.

Anonymous said...


Good grief!

You should change your name to "Figure Eights," or perhaps "Escher-esque Late-night Logic."

Asthma sucks. Running is cool. Drugs are (sometimes) bad (or good), m'kay. Fine! Now go to sleep!

Drug prohibition doesn't serve the purpose of punishing addiction and dependency. That is a consequence of prohibition. The purposes are far more sinister.

SSDP, students, good Rhode Islanders, etc., a job well done! Way to flex that enfranchised muscle.

800 pound gorilla said...

I campaigned for office on drug policy reform - so I got familiar with the hard core supporters of the drug war. They get rapturous about making other peoples' lives miserable. The people at the top are exploiting this deep seated hatred for other sinister purposes. They are using lies and changing the language in the dialogue to suit their purposes. Those who want to expand governmental power don't create the hatred, they just stoke its flames. They use false analogies to let the people with deep seated prejudices feel justified in their dislike and show them how to use governmental power to inflict harm on those they dislike with a passion.

Those who exploit often claim to be advocates of smaller government. Nonsense! These exploiters coined the term "the silent majority" in order to gain support from people who don't share their agenda - but have no qualms about stigmatizing those they resent and taking away "someone else's" rights. Someone else can pay for the big government. Someone else doesn't deserve the basic freedoms mentioned in the constitution. Whether "someone else" is a drug dealer or terrorist it makes no difference. These people will associate people of principle with these villains because they can't win the war on ideas.