Pubdate: Mon, 10 Nov 2008
Source: Athens News, The (OH)
Copyright: 2008, Athens News
Author: Mike Barajas
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)
Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws


Students for a Sensible Drug Policy could be seen on campus last week
running a "bake sale"; pun  intended; to help raise money for their trip to
Washington, D.C., for the 10th annual SSDP conference.

Nov. 21-23, about 20 Ohio University SSDP members are planning to
attend the national event, lobbying congressional and senate leaders
in an attempt to open up the discussion of drug policies in the
country and their respective states, explained Erin Dame, president
of OU's chapter of SSDP.

Before coming to OU for her Ph.D. work in communications studies,
Dame worked in D.C. as a  national outreach coordinator for the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Last
year, Dame and some other students restarted a  chapter of SSDP at OU.
(The group was active on campus  in the early 2000s when OU officials
started talking about tightening campus pot policies.)

"One common misnomer is that we're for the legalization of all
drugs," Dame said, referring to the group. Though she has previously
worked with groups  specifically attempting to reform marijuana laws,
Dame  said that SSDP is simply trying to encourage an active debate
about the current system of drug laws, which she in turn called

The organization states that while students should be concerned about
the impact of drug abuse in their communities, the current "War on
Drugs" is failing students and society while perpetuating policies
that directly harm student and youth culture.

Simply put, Dame said that current policies are criminalizing the
country's youth and need to be rethought.

Dame explained that the group neither condemns or nor condones drug
use, but rather aims to inform students about current drug policies
and how students can be affected by them. "I think a lot of people
don't even  really know what the drug policies are," she said. "We
want people to know their rights."

SSDP, Dame said, recognizes that "people are going to consume drugs"
and wants to inform students about responsible drug use and the
danger of abuse.

Levi Halter, a sophomore media studies major and SSDP member, said,
"Drug laws in general are not really with the times, per se."

In the past, Halter was cited for a marijuana-related offense during
a traffic stop. Halter said he wasn't  high at the time and "was not
going to be hurting  anybody." Given the situation, Halter said the
drug  charge was absurd, adding that the experience made him angry
about the current state of drug laws. "That could potentially ruin my
whole future," he said.

"They're punishing kids for things that are very common," Halter
noted, adding that marijuana laws especially need to be given a
second glance.

Halter also expressed anger over the way the university handles drug
offenses, saying that it's "ridiculous"  that a student can get cited
and fined by the Athens Police Department, but then be cited by the
university as well.

At the moment, Dame said that SSDP at OU is focusing on helping to
institute a medical-amnesty program on campus, which students could
use to call for help during a drug-or alcohol-related emergency
without fear of being punished by the university. In mid-October,
Student Senate passed a resolution urging President Roderick McDavis
to consider such a program.

Dame explained that SSDP would like to see this program contain some
kind of counseling component for students,  instead of just a one-time
class on substance abuse. "If people need to use this service, they
need more help than just one class," she said.

Though she said she has never been cited for any drug offenses, Dame
openly acknowledges using marijuana. One of the first steps in
combating the criminalization of the drug, she said, is "coming out
of that cannabis closet."

Law enforcement focuses too much attention on small-time drug usage,
Dame said, adding, "our law  enforcement really should have better
priorities; They're still wasting too much tax  money."

During the upcoming conference in D.C., Dame said that she and other
students plan to voice their concerns about the criminalization of
certain drugs, namely marijuana, and how it's affecting college students.

Dame also stated that she thinks some marijuana users are targeted
and profiled because of the way they look. Noting that she's had
dreadlocks for the past four years, she said, "I get pulled over at
least once a month now; it's really silly."

Charging that current drug policies are broken, Dame said, "Something
just has to be done with it."

After seeing how drug laws have so adversely affected friends and
students around her, Dame said she's committed to making sure
lawmakers can find a sensible alternative to the current policies.
"It's all goes back to starting this dialogue," she said.

The Ohio University Police Department could not be reached for
comment for this article.
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