- Brandon Levey
- Junior at the University of Maryland, College Park
- Co-President with Zach Brown at UMD SSDP (longest active chapter in SSDP history, and still going strong!)
SSDP: When did you 1st get involved with SSDP?
LEVEY: I first got active in SSDP at the end of my first semester in college, in the spring semester of 2009. I looked through the student group directory that semester, checked out a few student groups, and of many groups found SSDP and NORML at UMD to be the ones that really were trying to make a difference. The members, people who I didn’t know at the time but now are some of my closest friends, seemed the most committed, most organized, and most ready to make change.
SSDP: What has been your favorite SSDP experience?
LEVEY: When we were pushing for a Good Samaritan Policy(something that ended with success this semester!), we decided to reach out to parents on “Visit Maryland Weekend.” While I knew that a GSP was something that was important, I was new to SSDP and a bit skeptical about talking to parents, an audience that might not have been as receptive to some of our issues as students. However, to my surprise, the parents were just as supportive of the policy as the students!
This was when I realized that SSDP was really a group that could appeal to all demographics. Drug policy reform is not at all limited to students or people our age, but is something that would positively affect everybody, even if they don’t realize it yet.
SSDP: What issues are most important for your chapter?
LEVEY: In the 1980’s, Len Bias, a rising basketball star, was about to graduate from our school when he died of a cocaine overdose. More recently, there have been other UMD drug and alcohol overdose deaths, including Danny Reardon of an alcohol overdose in 2002. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, these deaths led to a University and even statewide crackdown on underage drinking and drug use, with harsher penalties and even the establishment of mandatory minimums.
Thanks to the incredible past leadership in our chapter, however, we finally got a Good Samaritan Policy covering alcohol overdose for both the victim and caller passed this semester. The general mindset on our campus has changed drastically towards a harm reduction rather than punitive approach, and SSDP has played the vital role in this. We hope to work and make this Good Samaritan Policy comprehensive in the coming year, and also plan on working towards an “alcohol-marijuana equalization” initiative. The punishments in our university for marijuana use are some of the strictest in the nation, and we will be pushing for more rational policies
SSDP: Do you have any events planned for this semester?
LEVEY: We’ve got a ton! Just in April alone, we are having a “religion, spirituality, and drug use” event where we will be hosting a campus Rabbi to discuss religious texts and how they look at drug use, both legal and illegal. We also plan on having Neill Franklin from LEAP at the end of this month, and having an event with our campus NORML chapter on the prohibition of synthetics such as K2 and Spice.
On the “fun and networking” side, SSDP and NORML on campus are hosting a “Safe Rave”- a rave to benefit our groups with harm reduction drug information and free water, as well as “Domefest”- a music festival featuring Papadosio and giving us an excellent opportunity to network with other groups and people on campus. Additionally, we will be participating in Relay for Life with many other students from around campus.
SSDP: What do you like best about being part of SSDP?
LEVEY: The people, and the fact that all of us together really are making such an amazing change- on a school, local, regional, and even national level. Victory is coming sooner than we think.
SSDP: Do you have any advice for other chapter leaders?
LEVEY: Get as many new members as you can to conferences, both regional, national, and international! The one thing that will keep a member involved really is experiencing first-hand how awesome, organized, effective and fun SSDP is! Also, make sure that SSDP isn’t a “meeting-only” type of organization by making sure to interact with active members in a different more relaxed setting as well.
SSDP: What’s your favorite “SSDP quote”?
LEVEY: One of our super rock stars and chapter leaders, our secretary Justin Kander, said this about ending the drug war and allowing people to live in freedom:
“I’m just happy we have the opportunity to help eliminate pain in the world, whatever we can do. Right now we sit in such comfort, but life can be absolutely destroyed by pain.. It must be eliminated to the greatest extent, no matter what, which is why we must keep fighting for what is right.”