It was a roller coaster ride of a cannabis campaign season for our SSDP chapters, but now that Amendment 2 has successfully passed in Florida, we’d like to give a special shoutout to three of our chapters in the state that, during the very busy campaign season, became recognized by their school as official student organizations.
Florida Atlantic University has had a history of SSDP chapters popping up and fading away on their campus, and the latest incarnation is spearheaded by Travis Oaks, a military veteran who is passionate in the potential of illegal drugs such as cannabis and MDMA for treating PTSD and other injuries inflicted by the horrors of war. The year may almost be over, but Travis is still working hard to build coalitions on his campus between his SSDP chapter and other organizations that are geared towards social justice and ending systemic inequality.
Eckerd College SSDP, formerly headed by alumnus KT Klens, is now lead by Trevor Sutherland, an SSDP rockstar who managed to get his whole school excited about legalizing medical marijuana. Upon my visit to campus, I noticed that every single dorm had at least several “Yes On 2” signs encouraging students to vote for the amendment. Trevor’s chapter also won SSDP’s voter registration contest in Florida, earning his chapter a phonebanking pizza party. The number of calls they made during this party helped them to be distinguished as the Florida chapter that made the most calls during the SSDP phonebank contest.
SSDP at the University of Florida is also back in action after the departure of former SSDP rockstar Chris Cassada. Led by Kevin Albertsson, a former chapter member of Florida Gulf Coast University, this chapter is still fighting an uphill battle in developing a chapter at a campus that is more conservative than those in South Florida or on the west coast. This chapter was involved in its county’s passage of a marijuana decriminalization bill, making it one of several counties joining an ongoing trend of local decriminalization efforts.
Last but not least, Florida now has four in-progress SSDP chapters that are in various stages of their development. Laydelis Dominguez is a student taking classes at Miami-Dade college, a school that has nine different campuses in Miami, Florida. Laydelis, or Lays for short, is enrolled in classes at both Hialeah and West campuses, and has already started the process of recruiting students to our cause while investigating the best way forward to become officially recognized by the school as a student organization. Julian Johnson, a student at the historically-black Bethune-Cookman University, was unable to begin forming a chapter until November 1st, just before the medical marijuana campaign ended, but is now attempting to officially kickstart SSDP on his campus. Nicholas Meyer of Broward College in Fort Lauderdale and Timothy Ritters of Celebration High School in Kissimmee are also attempting to start SSDP chapters at their respective schools.
These chapters’ successes can largely be attributed to their participation in Florida’s landslide-victory medical marijuana campaign, which attracted many students to the cause and inspired some of these new chapter leaders to start or rebuild SSDP chapters on their campuses. This historic election gave these students the opportunity to register and educate voters, talk to members of the media on and off campus, and host special informative events on and off campus.
Let’s hear it for these burgeoning chapters that have been a vital part of keeping Florida’s SSDP network strong. These chapters are part of a team of 15 across the state and counting, and are looking forward to keep pushing Florida to be a watershed state for sensible drug policy in the southeast United States.