Q: What are some of SSDP’s recent accomplishments?
A: Here are just a few of our recent accomplishments:
- Forced Congress to scale back the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty, which prevents students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. Nearly 200,00 would-be students have been affected by the penalty. SSDP mobilized 125 student governments to voice their opposition to the unjust policy, built a coalition of more than 300 prominent education, recovery, and civil rights organizations, and lobbied Congress aggressively for reform. As a result, the penalty no longer applies to those who are convicted of drug crimes while they are not in college and receiving financial aid. In other words, if a high school student or a person taking time off from school is convicted, their aid will not be affected when they return to school.
- Reformed prohibitive drug policies at more than 13 college campuses across the country.
- Defeated the Department of Education in a lawsuit seeking information about the number of students who have lost financial aid due to drug convictions in each state. When the DoE sought to make us pay an exorbitant sum to obtain the information, we sued, and The New York Times editorialized on our behalf.
- Mobilized student activists in SSDP chapters nationwide to reform campus, local, and state drug policies. In our new Campus Change Campaign, several chapters have already passed student voter initiatives for more sensible campus drug policies. Some SSDP chapters have passed statewide legislation and local ballot initiatives.
- Initiated debate on the validity of student drug testing at the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s student drug testing summits. By presenting data to school administrators considering drug testing, SSDP activists ensured that alternative perspectives were considered.
- Built and maintained a strong chapter network at hundreds of campuses across North America.
Q: Has SSDP been featured in the media?
A: Yes! SSDP’s efforts have been covered by The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, Fox News, The Associated Press, MTV, Rolling Stone, National Public Radio, Reason, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Congressional Quarterly, hundreds of campus newspapers, dozens of popular political blogs, and many other prominent news organizations.
Q: I’ve heard of college chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) before. What’s the difference between NORML and SSDP?
A: While SSDP works closely with NORML on marijuana policy issues, there are some substantial distinctions between the two organizations.
When SSDP works on marijuana policy reform, it is part of an effort to attack drug prohibition in its entirety. In addition to lobbying for changes in marijuana policy, SSDP chapters work toward such goals as repealing the law that automatically denies financial aid to college students with drug convictions and stopping high schools from implementing random student drug testing. Also, with a board of directors mostly comprised of current students, SSDP is the only drug policy reform organization that is led by students and devotes 100% of its energy to youth empowerment.
Starting A Chapter
Q: What do I need to do to start an SSDP Chapter?
A: In order to be recognized as an official chapter of SSDP, you must meet at least two of the following three criteria:
- Receive official school recognition;
- Hold regular meetings;
- Attend national and regional SSDP events (such as conferences).
The chapter must contact SSDP’s international office to become an official SSDP chapter.
Chapters are also expected to embrace and exemplify the mission and values of the national organization.
Q: Great, so how do I receive recognition from my school?
A: Each school has its own process for recognizing organizations, and this process is usually explained in a student handbook. The best places to start asking around for information about starting an organization are the office of student government or the office of student involvement. Many universities require student organizations to have faculty advisors, so a good first step is always to reach out to professors who you think may be supportive of drug policy reform. You should also draft up a chapter constitution – many universities require one. You can download sample constitutions here.
Q: Do I have to pay dues to SSDP International?
A: Not at all. Anybody should be able to join SSDP, regardless of the amount of money you have to spend. Your commitment to drug policy reform is payment enough.
Q: If I start an SSDP chapter, will I have to follow orders from somebody in Washington DC?
A: SSDP has always been a grassroots organization that values the autonomy of its chapters. SSDP does have a national office in DC, but its sole purpose is to serve the chapters. Though we may encourage you to work with us on national campaigns, we want you to work on what’s important to you. So, in short, NO, you won’t be receiving orders from the national office.
Q: Cool. So chapters can do whatever they want?
A: Almost, but not quite. Being part of an international organization requires a commitment to the mission and values of that organization. For example, since the organization “neither encourages nor condemns drug use”, encouraging people to smoke marijuana is not OK. However, encouraging people to change marijuana laws is more than OK. As a rule, SSDP activity is focused on drug policy, and not on using drugs.
Q: OK. Drug policy. Got it. So what’s next?
A: Start organizing! Our resources page has plenty of materials to get you started, and Regional Outreach Coordinators, Scott and Jake, are available to guide you through the process of starting a chapter. If you haven’t contacted your regional outreach coordinator yet, please do so here. If you are a student outside of the United States, you can contact our international organizer, Jake, here.
We look forward to hearing from you soon!