The Mid-Atlantic region has a new chapter! We’re proud to announce that the George Washington University Law School chapter is now official! I spoke with rockstar chapter leader Kellen Russoniello to find out what the journey has been like so far and what’s in store for the chapter moving forward.
When did you get involved in SSDP and why?
I was introduced to SSDP in the summer of 2010 when I was interning with Eric Sterling at the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. I had already started a student organization at GW Law (Student Association for Drug Law Reform), but was interested in the opportunity of coordinating with a national network of drug policy reformers. SSDP seemed like an amazing group of activists united for a cause that I truly believe in. So I attended the Mid-Atlantic Conference in Richmond last October, met many SSDPers, and decided that our organization should join forces with SSDP. Towards the end of the last school year, our organization voted to change our name to SSDP and officially become part of the family.
On the road to becoming official, what kind of obstacles (if any) did you encounter? Was it from students or from GW administration or both?
Fortunately, the Student Bar Association, which has control over student organizations and their funding, were very accepting of our organization. Our constitution was approved unanimously and all of the funding we applied for last school year was awarded. We also received recognition from the faculty of GW Law, winning the Most Outstanding Multi-Day Event for Drug War Week (featuring a debate on the legalization of marijuana, a discussion of Prop 19 in California, and a discussion on medical marijuana). Of course, we still encounter the problem of being taken seriously. Both faculty and peers sometimes refuse to engage in the issues and discount us as “the drug club.” We continue to try and get these people involved by having real conversations about the harms of our current drug policy.
Moving forward with your now official chapter, what are you most excited about?
I am really excited about this year. First, it is our first year as an official SSDP chapter, and I am looking forward to the collaboration with local chapters. Second, 2012 is on the horizon. This is going to be an important year in drug policy reform at the state level, and having a chapter in the nation’s capital can draw a lot of attention to this issue. Third, there are many exciting drug policy issues occurring in the District itself. Along with fellow SSDPers, we will be working on getting a Good Samaritan law passed for DC. We will also be keeping a close eye on the developing medical marijuana situation here. Of course, it is always exciting to start a new year and recruit new people who are passionate about affecting change.
Welcome to the family, Kellen and GW Law SSDP!
Students for Sensible Drug Policy is active across the United States with official chapters at over 150 high schools, colleges, universities, graduate & law schools. To find a chapter near you, go to http://ssdp.org/chapters or start a chapter if your school doesn’t yet have an SSDP.
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