Pubdate: Wed, 12 Aug 2015
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Adam Kovac
Page: A10
Cited: Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy:


Mcgill and Concordia Students Join Lobby Group Seeking Reforms

When students at McGill and Concordia return to classes for the fall 
semester there will be new chapters of a club that gives new meaning 
to higher education.

The university campuses are set to become the only homes in Montreal 
for the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a nationwide 
group that lobbies for reforms at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

The group advocates treating drug usage as a health issue rather than 
a criminal justice one, with activities revolving around policy 
points such as supporting the legalization of marijuana, rallying 
against minimum sentences for drug-related offences and advocating 
for harm-reduction programs, including safe needle exchanges.

"Drug policy is a very broad sort of field and you could be looking 
at anything from the international policy movement at the UN or you 
can be looking at doing harm reduction at underground events and then 
you could be looking at policy change nationally," said Gonzo Nieto, 
co-chair of the CSSDP's board of directors and a Concordia alumnus.

While Nieto helped found the Concordia chapter, second-year 
international student Andrew DiMicelli, a New York native, is the 
co-founder of the one at McGill. He said his interest in the club was 
piqued by his interest in libertarianism and strengthened by reading 
about the use of psychoactive drugs in treating things like 
post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the idea of legalizing pot and increasing access to medical 
cannabis and harm-reduction programs have garnered significant 
mainstream attention, Nieto said he feels there are some lesser known 
drug-related issues that he hopes CSSDP can bring into the spotlight.

"Naloxone is a substance that can directly counteract an opiate 
overdose," said Nieto. "The same way that you need to get to somebody 
with an EpiPen if they're having a severe (allergic) reaction, it 
will stop it. Yet there's still a lot of reluctance to put (it) in 
the places it needs to be and make it accessible and train people to use it."

Accessibility is an issue that goes beyond lobbying and into actual 
grassroots action, said Nieto. That's why new chapters in Montreal 
are important to him: it means actual boots on the ground when 
volunteers are needed to help those affected by the very drug 
policies the club hopes to change.

"Harm reduction at festivals and events (is important)," said Nieto. 
"Literally things like providing drug-testing so people can test 
samples of whatever drugs they have to ensure their purity and their 
identity so they know what they're taking, to providing different 
kinds of drug information or snorting straws, along with condoms. 
This is a thing that is very logical and sensible to a lot of people."

Not everything the clubs aim to do is so serious. Aside from lobbying 
and volunteering, there are plans to take part in the annual 4/20 
parade and its 9/20 cousin in Montreal, which celebrate psychoactive 
mushrooms, as well as organizing movie nights where documentaries 
about issues related to drug policies are shown. There's even talk of 
a night dedicated to flavour-tripping in which a legal substance, 
known as miracle berries, numb certain taste receptors on the tongue 
when they're ingested, allowing users to experience flavours in 
entirely different ways than they're used to.

As for criticism that could arise that these chapters are just an 
excuse for students to gather around and get high together, DiMicelli 
said that's not the goal. But if it does happen, he said, it's 
important that all involved stay safe and informed.

"Yes, some people may get high," he said. "That's not within the 
clubs's goals or recommendations, but one of the main goals ... is to 
advocate safe drug use for people who choose to use drugs and to 
provide correct information."
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