SSDP chapters provide the ground forces and the teams of volunteers for many large state and federal campaigns. Our strength as an organization and what we bring to the table for these types of projects are our vast numbers or motivated activists and our ability to reach a large voting bloc of young people.

It’s at the state and local levels where individual SSDP chapters can help most. Chapters can take more initiative and be more involved at the state and local levels, and they can help to support the incremental changes that are so important to the future of marijuana policy reform. While federal policy is unquestionably important, changing state policies can help to sway opinions and change policy on a national level. With the help of SSDP chapters, it’s likely that we’ll see more victories like the ones in Colorado and Washington in the coming years. Students and chapters can help to support state and local marijuana policy reform by supporting legislation and ballot initiatives for decriminalization, medical marijuana, taxation and regulation, and lowest priority policies.

Outlined below are the different types of marijuana campaigns and how to most effectively help push each one forward:

Types of Marijuana Campaigns

DecriminalizationDecriminalization reduces the penalties for first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use for adults. This almost always means that the violation is not at the level of a crime, but this does not mean that marijuana is legal. Violators will still be subject to fines or other sanctions, much like the process for traffic violations (NORML).

Medical MarijuanaMedical marijuana policies allow for patients who use marijuana for treatment to do so without fear of arrest or imprisonment.

Taxation and Regulation (Legalization / T&R)Taxation and regulation (legalization) is a policy where marijuana is legal, but regulated and controlled. This ensures both that marijuana suppliers and that minors do not have access to marijuana, much in the way that alcohol is currently regulated and taxed.

Lowest Law Enforcement Priority (LLEP)Lowest priority policies are enacted on the local level. Lowest priority policies make marijuana possession violations the lowest priority of law enforcement officers. While marijuana possession is still illegal and subject to punishment, lowest priority policies ensure that police resources go towards more serious crimes rather than the non-violent, victimless crime of marijuana possession by adults.


How to Get Involved

Federal Reform:

Almost all federal marijuana opportunities will come from SSDP headquarters. Keeping an eye on the SSDP Action Centers and subscribing to our mailing list and those of organizations like Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws will keep you up to date on opportunities to support federal marijuana reform. You can sign up for those mailing lists at the organization’s website:

In addition to following SSDP’s Action Centers, the Marijuana Policy Project also keeps a list of current ways to promote sensible drug policies on the federal level here:

State and Local Reform:

Individual SSDP chapters are most effective at changing policy on the state and local levels. Local chapters can directly influence local policies by helping to raise awareness and support for ballot initiatives and legislation at the local level. While federal marijuana policy is important, state marijuana reform is indicative of the changing attitudes toward marijuana across the country. State marijuana reform can also demonstrate the success decriminalization, medical marijuana, and taxation and regulation policies and influence later federal policies.

To get involved marijuana policy reform in your state, first find out if there is already a campaign or effort in the works. The Marijuana Policy Project has state-by-state information on campaigns and efforts here: Once you’ve found the efforts or campaigns for your state, connect with them and offer your support.

You can also help reform state and local marijuana policies by finding out who your state and local representatives are and by informing them about the benefits of marijuana reform and encouraging them to support marijuana reform bills. SSDP has a tool for finding out who your state and local representatives are here:


Ballot Initiatives vs. Legislator-sponsored Bills

Some marijuana reform campaigns will utilize the legislative route and some will utilize the voter initiative route. There are also intricacies and differences among different kinds of voter initiatives and different kinds of legislator-sponsored bills, but the main differences are this:

Ballot Initiatives

  1. Bill is written (Typically, organizations such as Marijuana Policy Project or Drug Policy Alliance take care of working with legislators to write the bill.)
  2. Petition to get it on the ballot
  3. Inform the voters
  4. Get out the vote

Students can help support state ballot initiatives by petitioning to get the initiative on the ballot, informing voters, and helping to get out the vote.

Legislator-sponsored Bills:

  1. Bill is written (Typically, organizations such as Marijuana Policy Project or Drug Policy Alliance take care of working with legislators to write the bill.)
  2. Find sponsors
  3. Inform and lobby legislators
  4. Generate support (action centers, etc.)

Students can help support state legislation by informing and lobbying legislators and by generating support through action centers, social media, etc.