Pubdate: Thu, 08 Dec 2005
Source: New Paltz Oracle (SUNY, NY Edu)
Author: Lori Ryan
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Most people on the SUNY New Paltz campus are familiar with the large, 
neon green potleaf glowing in a third floor window of the Student 
Union Building. Most are somewhat acquainted with NORML, the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The organization people are less aware of is SSDP, Students for 
Sensible Drug Policy. On the SUNY New Paltz campus, SSDP is combined 
with NORML to create a larger and more powerful alliance for reform. 
"I had never heard of SSDP before coming to SUNY New Paltz," said 
student Nicole Rynston. "I saw flyers for NORML and found out about 
SSDP at the first meeting."

Some people might question the necessity for two drug policy reform 
organizations on a college campus. The two groups must somehow be 
different enough to justify the existence of both.

NORML focuses on the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, 
both for medicinal purposes and personal use. SSDP is an organization 
committed to harm reduction and providing education to people about 
the societal damage of the war on drugs. This group neither 
encourages nor condemns drug use, but recognizes the need for all 
drug policy reform. It seeks to promote student involvement in the 
political process that shapes the policies they must adhere to.

Student Senate Chair Justin Holmes said you don't have to be up in 
arms about marijuana to be in step with SSDP's goal of calling into 
question the absurd policy of prohibition.

"SSDP tends to bring together people from a wide variety of political 
views," Holmes said. "Even though it's more radical in some ways, 
it's still more palatable to conservatives and Libertarians."

This organization works for all students, not just those who use 
drugs. SSDP advocates said they believe that more money should be 
spent on education, and less on the growing prison system. A recent 
provision of the Higher Education Act has made it increasingly 
difficult for people with drug offenses to receive financial aid to 
go to college. This is one of many issues that SSDP is working to 
reform. SSDP also promotes true drug education for students, allowing 
them to make informed decisions on drug use without fear of discrimination.

"I think SSDP covers such a broad range of topics," Rynston said. 
"Even people who don't do drugs can be in favor of reform."

A main goal of SSDP is to educate students of their rights in law 
enforcement situations. One of the events sponsored by SSDP on campus 
is called Know Your Rights, which is a program to address how to 
react and respond during interactions with the police. This event, 
which will be held early next semester, will focus on racial 
profiling and feature a video called "Busted." Student senator and 
SSDP President Jenny Loeb said that she has been collaborating with 
Executive Vice President Safiya Warner and Provident Under Providence 
to make it a more diverse and educational event this year.

SSDP is made up of a varied group of students from all around the 
country. This group works to form a tight-knit networking system to 
recruit and retain members. Many of these activists will be visiting 
New Paltz this spring, for the annual Regional SSDP conference. Loeb 
said this year she hopes to host the conference in conjunction with 
another SSDP sponsored event, Rock Against Racism, but no date has 
been set for either.

With the war on drugs impacting our society in so many different 
ways, SSDP provides an opportunity for students to gather and discuss 
rational alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems. Loeb 
said that the goal of SSDP at New Paltz is to engage students in 
challenging the hypocritical system that imprisons more people in the 
name of youth than any other country in the world.

"The Drug War affects every single one of us and is the most damaging 
to youth and people of color," Loeb said. "We want to open up a 
dialogue about our failed drug policies and discuss safer and more 
just alternatives."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman