Alumni Newsletter December 2010

Sections:

SSDP Alumni for Prop 19
Alumni All-Stars
Alumni spotlights

  1. Troy Dayton
  2. Jenny Janichek-Krane
  3. Dan MacCombie
  4. Amanda Catherine Stauble

Job opportunities

2011 Training Conference

SSDP Alumni for Prop 19

In November, 4.5 million Californians voted for Prop 19, the initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana.  Collecting more votes than Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, Prop 19 achieved a respectable 46.5%, the highest percentage ever received for a statewide initiative to legalize marijuana.  The coalition supporting Prop 19 brought together police officers, minority advocacy groups, unions, faith leaders, law professors, business leaders, and many more who permanently transformed the debate about marijuana.

A close look at the make-up of the coalition reveals that SSDP alumni were a driving force behind the campaign’s high achievement.  They were involved at all levels across all facets of the strong and dedicated coalition leading this campaign which went so far despite a small budget and small staff.

University of Rhode Island and University of Missouri chapter alumni Tom Angell and Amber Langston served as Prop 19’s media relations director and media relations coordinator, respectively.  Together they helped garner positive press by holding press conferences, fielding questions from members of the media, connecting spokespeople with journalists, and formulating responses to the opposition.

Others, like Sugam SoniSan Francisco State University chapter alum, contributed as local grassroots activists. Sugam, a member of the staff at one of the nation’s leading medical cannabis facilities, led discussions and local community outreach to spread awareness about the benefits of Prop 19.  John Decker, alum of SSDP Terps at the University of Maryland, College Park, coordinated campaign events such as the creative sign displays during the San Francisco Giants playoff run.

The chapter most well-represented in the Prop 19 campaign was likely the UC-Berkeley chapter.  Helping to lead the campaign as Deputy Campaign Manager was Rebecca Saltzman, a UC-Berkeley alumna.  One of the most visible leaders was regional directorKat Murti, whose dedication to the campaign led her to be nominated by the UC-Berkeley chapter and featured as an All-Star SSDP Alumna.

The current staff and board of SSDP were highly involved as well.  In a collaborative effort with the Just Say Now campaign, Aaron Houston, Stacia Cosner, and Jon Perri motivated young voters across the state to get out of the vote and young people across the country to phone bank.  Board member Alex Kreit (Hampshire College) led the law professor coalition, and Board member Shaleen Title (University of Illinois) organized the law enforcement coalition.  Board members Alex Woon (San Jose State University), Jesse Stout (Brown University), and Mike Liszewski (University of the District of Columbia, School of Law) also contributed.

The SSDP alumni involved worked on various facets of the campaign, but they all agreed that working on the campaign was one of the most rewarding (though exhausting) things a young activist can do.  Amber says, “Not only was I privileged to work with a stellar group of drug policy reform and other like-minded political professionals, I was also granted a position to speak with authority about the importance and urgency of legalizing marijuana for adult use in a legitimate public debate.”  The emphasis on professionalism was brought up again and again. “I found that the level of professionalism in a group of people that the country thought would not ‘have it together’ was remarkable,” Sugam adds.

One of the most valuable tools that national SSDP and chapter leaders can give their members is the tool to create change at a local level.  Part of this is activism experience.  Amber explains, “SSDP undoubtedly gave me my strongest tools for political activism with drug policy reform. Not only have I learned techniques on organizing, developing campaign strategies and messaging specific to drug policy reform, I have also become part of a network of incredible activists whom I can turn to for opinions and advice.  There’s no chance I would have been able to get this far without being involved with SSDP.”  Substantive knowledge is equally valuable.  Sugam says, “In our forums at school, we were able to discuss a broad range of arguments for and against, and this helped me to tackle these issues when faced with voters who had those concerns.”

We asked each alumnus for their advice for SSDP members or alumni who want to get involved with campaigns like Prop 19.  Here is their advice:

“Dive in to SSDP.  After your academics, make it the most important thing in your life for the time you are in college.  You’ll learn an incredible amount, meet a huge network of amazing people and feel a great sense of accomplishment.”  – Tom Angell 

“If this is something you care about- do not hesitate. My experience with SSDP and Prop 19 has made me very proud of the work that we do. It is very fulfilling to know that we are part of changing the world. Prohibition effects so many lives, and everyday we are working on eliminating that failed policy. Student activism, to me, is what this country is all about- A group of educated minds working together for reform.” – Sugam Soni

“For students who are interested in pursuing this kind of career….DO IT!!  The world really is run by those who show up.  Every little thing you do with and for you chapter becomes a part of your requisite skill set, whether or not you can see it in the immediate term.  Everything starts with small steps.  It is a matter of ceaselessly continuing with those steps, learning from your mistakes and continuing to be a voice in all the political arenas available to you that will give you an edge for this kind of work.  Local action becomes global action.” – Amber Langston

“STAY INVOLVED! Don’t let graduation stop you from having SSDP in your life, stay in contact with your Alma Matta chapter, be a part of the list serve, keep up on the drug policy world in your local community and, just don’t stop.” – John Decker

Alumni All-Stars

These two alumni were nominated by current SSDP chapter leaders for their continued support!

Kat Murti
University of California – Berkeley ’09Kat Murti, SSDP Alum

 

Victor Pinho
University of Maryland – College Park ’06Victor Pinho, SSDP Alum

“I can’t think of anyone who fits the description of an all-star alum better than Kat Murti, who graduated from  Cal last summer but has continued to be a tremendous leader for our chapter, especially in coordinating our Prop 19 efforts. I speak for everyone I know involved with SSDP in the Bay Area when I say that Kat deserves to be nominated for this. Her passion is fiercely contagious. Thanks for drawing attention to this–we’d be nowhere without alumni like Kat!”
– Matt Kintz, UC-Berkeley chapter
“Victor helped found our chapter in 2002 but continues to maintain a helpful presence whenever we need him. Victor agreed to spend his own time coming down to UMD from New Jersey to talk about medical marijuana to our chapter. He is always at conferences offering ideas that we use to help make our chapter stronger. In fact, Victor proposed the idea of an “officer planning retreat” for our chapter last summer and led the planning for it. He is truly a valuable asset to our chapter”.
– Brandon Levey, University of Maryland, College Park chapter.

 

Alumni Spotlights

Troy Dayton

Troy Dayton

When, where, and why did you first get involved with SSDP?

The thought of someone being punished for what they put in their body turned my stomach…and still does.  When I was a sophomore at American University I started a NORML Chapter and was volunteering for the Marijuana Policy Project and DRCnet.   We started a list-serve for college drug policy activists called U-net.  While that might seem like an obvious thing to do now, in 1997 that was revolutionary and it was the first time that student drug policy reform activists from around the country could interact on a daily basis. There was also a college drug reform activist conference organized at UMass-Amherst. These two factors caused a rumbling among a handful of us for a national student organization that was focused on broad drug policy reform.  Then, in 1998 Mark Souder passed the bill that denied college students financial aid. That provided the urgency and the momentum to found Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

What are you doing now?

About 10 months ago, I left my job as Senior Development Officer for the Marijuana Policy Project to become the CEO of a new venture, The ArcView Group. The ArcView Group is partnered with Stephen DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center and we provide strategic value and industry insight to catapult innovative business ideas towards success in the cannabis industry.  Our first project is a private-labeled custom mobile app for dispensaries, which is a first-of-its-kind product that debuted at Harborside and is now being adopted nationwide.

How did your work with SSDP affect your current career?

It defined it. Both the skills and the relationships built through SSDP have both grown and lasted throughout the years. Its effect goes much deeper than my career.  Some of my best friends have come through SSDP.

How has the movement changed since you got involved?

It’s much larger, more professional, and we are winning instead of losing.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

What’s your most memorable SSDP moment?

Leading a 60 person protest of the Drug Czar at American University and getting on C-span.  We put a cape on a statue at a main intersection off campus that said “Stop Arresting Patients” where we gathered after the protest.  While we were taking a picture, Eric Sterling stepped out and gave a really inspiring speech about how important this work is.  It was at that moment, that I knew what I wanted to do for a living.

Why do you think other alumni should stay involved in this movement?

It’s incredibly rewarding to see and help shape what gets built upon the foundation you laid.

Jenny Janichek

Jenny Janichek-Krane

1) When, where, and why did you first get involved with SSDP?

In 2004 I was a clinical psychology graduate student and research assistant who was deeply engrossed in researching drug misuse and in advancing the harm reduction framework and approach. I had seen first hand the neglect of “drug education” programming, the barriers of abstinence-based treatment standards, and the devastation created by the criminalization of substance use and wanted to do something about it! Then I learned about a really interesting student advocacy organization called SSDP. I was initially drawn to SSDP’s values, structure, and basic tenants and soon became very excited to unite with fellow students, many whom had also been personally impacted by the drug war. I quickly became a founding member of SSDP-Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL.

2) What are you doing now?

I currently work as a harm reduction consultant and clinician at Harborside Health Center (HHC), a medical cannabis dispensary located in Oakland and San Jose, CA. In my daily work with patients I embrace the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and assist individuals looking to exit from the use of more harmful substances. Most recently, I’ve created a medical cannabis patient survey and used the information to create an innovative substance use and misuse clinical services program at HHC. Our program provides medical cannabis patients a combination of harm reduction, educational, skills-based, and therapeutic support services, both individual and group based. We provide a compassionate and unique space for medical cannabis consumers who seek non-judgmental substance use, misuse, and mental health services.

3) How did your work with SSDP affect your current career?

I took the relationships I formed, information I gained, skills I acquired while in SSDP and decided to continue my endeavors in promoting the harm reduction approach as an option for policy and practice. I full heartedly believe that my involvement in SSDP was the springboard into my understanding of another important aspect of individuals’ use or misuse of particular substances—the macro picture—I learned more about the grim influence of local, state, and federal policies.

4) How has the movement changed since you got involved?

I believe that the DPR movement has grown into a recognizable voice of reason. Students across the country have created allies with groups we brainstormed about years ago, we created liaisons within the international arena, and we have helped push the dialogue of the media and policymakers into evidence-based solutions rather than the same old rhetoric.

5) What’s your most memorable SSDP moment?

I’ll never forget the 1st ever strategy summit I helped to plan in Chicago when we developed the first organizational strategic plan or when Danny Davis read my letter verbatim to Congress about the merits of harm reduction and then later meeting him or when I first saw my featured letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune which landed me a one on one meeting with our University President to talk drug policy. But mostly it is the amazing relationships I’ve formed with so many outstanding individuals!

6) Why do you think other alumni should stay involved in this movement?

I think it is so important to continue carrying the social justice torch past the academic halls. There are so many varied opportunities that alumni can be involved in, even if it isn’t in the realm of 9 to 5. If we just stay in contact with our fellow alum, donate to the movement when we can, provide guidance for our youth, and keep ourselves informed, we can continue to have those vital conversations with our neighbors, coworkers, and family.

Dan MacCombie

Dan MacCombie

daniel.maccombie@gmail.com

1) When and where did you first get involved with SSDP?

I got involved with SSDP my freshman year at Brown, particularly inspired by the work we were doing on campus around engaging with the Right to Vote movement (re-enfranchisement for the thousands of individuals who had fulfilled their obligations to the justice system and were now living in their communities).

2) What are you doing now?

I am a co-founder of Runa.  Runa began when three students (Tyler, Dan and Charlie) teamed up with communities of indigenous farmers to share the guayusa (why-you-suh) tea ritual with the world. Collectively, we are creating a business that respects cultural traditions, supports small farmers, and helps the Amazon rainforest thrive. Runa inspires people to live a stimulating life and use their energy and imagination to create a better world.

The word “Runa” means “person” or “fully living human being” in the Kichwa language. We chose this name to represent our company’s commitment to realizing a dream of living responsibly, collaboratively, and intelligently as a global community.

3) How did your work with SSDP affect your current career?

SSDP was the first opportunity I had to lead without an adult holding my hand – though I’m very grateful for all the hand-holding I was able to receive in my formative years. It introduced me to so many of my good friends who are changing the world, and we’re teaching each other how to do that every day.  Most importantly, it gave me that first sweet taste of shared success and joy and I’ve been seeking it ever since.

4) How has the movement changed since you got involved?

Bigger! I’m so amazed and impressed that there are so many new chapters.  Want to give a shout-out to all the chapters in my home state of Ohio (I don’t think there were any chapters there when I started with SSDP) I also love watching how the staff is growing their reach and achievement.  I feel very lucky to still be close and connected to so many people in the movement who are doing great work in a number of diverse fields.  I think that SSDP can learn from the TFA model – I hope that most people in the movement don’t work in it as alumni.  I’d rather they be taking their skills and lessons and perspectives and spreading them far and wide to other disciplines and fields.

5) What’s your most memorable SSDP moment?

Definitely the opening plenary at the regional conference I co-organized with one of my best friends and former SSDP Executive Director Matt Palevsky (Brown ’07).  The excitement in the room was palpable – and amazing.

6) Why do you think other alumni should stay involved in this movement?

Because the people in it are amazing, active, and have great potential to make a better world.  I think many SSDP alum will do great things together, in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

Amanda Catherine Stauble

Amanda Catherine Stauble

ac.stauble@gmail.com

1) When and where did you first get involved with SSDP?

I first got involved with SSDP at the newly forming chapter at the University of Connecticut. My activism with SSDP started with some fliers plastered around the social science buildings asking me if I was frustrated with the war on drugs. It quickly turned into attending weekly meetings, becoming an officer, going to protests, lobbying state legislators, and attending national drug policy conferences.

2) What are you doing now?

About five minutes after graduation, my partner Justin Myles Holmes and I opened up our own business together in the beautiful Hudson Valley, New York. Justin and I met through a national SSDP conference at UMD. We now run Slash Root: the grassroots tech cafe. It’s a technology collective based in a relaxed, coffee shop environment. We specialise in open source and cutting edge technologies to offer premier web development services, education or consultation, and computer repair.

3) How did your work with SSDP affect your current career?

The values such as, freedom, perseverance, a drive for knowledge and positive change, and the skills like, time management, networking, fundraising, and leadership that I developed through my work with SSDP have been my foundation as an entrepreneur.

4) How has the movement changed since you got involved?

When I first got involved with SSDP, the answer to the question, “What will the world look like when we legalize drugs?” was handled with cautious, open-ended replies, mostly finishing with the idea of, “let’s handle it when we get there.”

Within a few short years the answer to that question is confidently handled head on with the confidence of having a few tangible, very realistic, safe alternatives to the war on drugs. The California model dispensaries such as Berkeley Patients Group and Harborside Health Center offer such hope to me and to the movement.

5) What’s your most memorable SSDP moment?

It’s impossible to choose my most memorable moment with SSDP. Travelling throughout the country for conferences, touring medical cannabis dispensaries in California, testifying in front of my state representatives, being called the ‘decrim girl’ by the legislators when interning at the capitol, and meeting a truly amazing, loving and brilliant partner are among my fondest memories.

6) Why do you think other alumni should stay involved in this movement?

Alumni that I met when I was beginning SSDP were my greatest inspiration for getting more involved. I continue to look up to, seek advice from, love, and respect the leaders who came before me in the movement. SSDP alumni must continue to lead their younger peers. Graduating doesn’t signify the end of a true drug policy activists efforts; it just means it’s time to get to work.

Job & Internship Opportunities

MPP Communications Director
Weedmaps Senior Software Engineer
ACLU-NV Staff Attorney 
DPA Director of Information Technology and Knowledge Management
MPP Membership Assistant 

Internships:
MPP Video Assistant Intern
MPP Government Relations Intern
SSDP Intern!*
* Additional SSDP internship & fellowship opportunities are available, please contact Stacia Cosner for more info.

2011 SSDP Training Conference!

Remember those life-changing moments at SSDP conferences? Now’s your chance to give back and let a student experience those eye-opening lectures, powerful workshops, and building of lifetime friendships. This March, SSDP is hosting a major national training event for student organizers focused on building skills necessary to make drug policy reform an issue in the 2012 general election. If SSDP does its part, these elections could bring major changes to the White House and to states like Colorado, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Washington. It costs about $70 for lodging and $200 for travel per out-of-state SSDP member, as you likely recall, a difficult amount for many college students to afford. I invite you to join me in investing in the future of sensible drug policy by becoming an SSDP donor today at ssdp.org/sustain.  Happy Holidays!

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