Midwest Conference Unites and Trains SSDP Students

Midwest Conference Unites and Trains SSDP Students

This past weekend, Roosevelt University hosted the 2011 Midwest Regional SSDP Conference in Chicago, Illinois. The conference gathered students, alumni, professional drug policy reformers, journalists, and health professionals together in order to help educate and train attendees to become better advocates in ending the War on Drugs. With over 60 students, from 10 established SSDP chapters and 5 chapters in progress, our generation was represented by some of the brightest minds in the country. With students representing high schools, colleges, and universities from five different states, this event served as a guiding light for so many young activists. Seeing such a great turnout from a region that is not often seen as a haven for drug policy reform left attendees inspired to take their newly honed skills and knowledge back to their campuses and communities to enact change.

Partnering with the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice, Roosevelt SSDP worked to put together a very diverse set of speakers, panels, and presentations for attendees to help create an open forum for discussing sensible alternatives to our nation’s current drug policies. This event accomplished SSDP’s intentions by helping create a forum that discussed the collateral consequences of the War on Drugs, why student involvement is so important, and how we can work to craft future drug policies grounded in science, reason, compassion, and justice. The conference opened the floor to many topics and allowed students to discuss issues like racial disparities within current drug policy, harm reduction, state funding priorities, and marijuana policy reform.

After leaving the conference, I remain totally inspired by the amount of energy, passion, and direction I witnessed take place in Chicago. Seeing the level of intellectual discourse, hearing the heartfelt testimonies, and talking to so many inspiring individuals, I can only see success in the future of the Midwest’s drug policy reform.

Full List of Panels: 

“The Collateral Consequences of the War on Drugs”

  • Todd Belcore—Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
  • Beth Johnson—Cabrini Green Legal Aid
  • Anthony Lowery—The Safer Foundation

“Marijuana in the Mid West Context”

  • Walter Boyd—Protestants for the Common Good
  • Michael Graham—Patient
  • James Kowalsky-Northwestern SSDP Alumni

“The Importance of 911 Amnesty”

  • Ramon Gardenhire—Chicago AIDS Foundation
  • Clay Wallace—Roosevelt University Grad Student
  • Kathie Kane-Willis—Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy

“Harm Reduction: A Necessity”

  • Melissa Janiszewski—Chicago AIDS Foundation
  • Valery Shuman—Mid West Harm Reduction Institute: Heartland Alliance
  • Dan Bigg—Chicago Recovery Alliance

“The War on Drugs and Growing Racial Disparities”

  • Mick Dumke—Chicago Reader Author
  • Laura Brookes—Target Alternative for Safe Communities (TASC)
  • Vincent Martell-Roosevelt University SSDP

“Questioning State Funding Priorities: Prisons vs. Higher Education”

  • Stephanie Farmer—Professor at Roosevelt University

“A Better Way of Life: The Portugal Model”

  • Helen Redmond

“SSDP 101”

  • Devon Tackels—SSDP Regional Outreach Coordinator


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