The first ever Florida regional conference began on the evening of February 4th with an informal bonfire meet and greet and an anti-oppression training workshop led by our Florida State Policy Correspondent Sabrina Koramblyum.
Sunday opened with an incredibly inspiring speech by Greg Newburn, Florida Policy Director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Mr. Newburn described his recent work in Florida on the statewide Good Samaritan bill, the progress they’ve made with it, and how FAMM fits into the larger picture of drug policy reform in Florida.
The “Effective Leadership and Group Dynamics workshop,” led byFSU chapter leader Cody Swingleand University of Miami chapter leaders Alfred Kilzi and Lilly Marlaine, engaged students in a discussion about what effective leadership is and how to harness the energy of chapter members. SSDP chapters are engines of social reform, and like any well-functioning machine, chapters perform best when all of their parts (officers and members) work together, smoothly, and efficiently. Lilly, Cody, and Alfred discussed some of the different components of team building, conflict resolution, group cohesiveness, nurturing and maintaining a healthy, cooperative, and productive chapter environment, ensuring the survival and longevity of a chapter with well-planned leadership transitions.
Lilly Marlaine, U Miami and James Tarkington, FSU, led the hugely important “How to Answer Tough Questions about Drug Policy” workshop. SSDP starts conversations about drug policy reform, which means SSDPers are often called upon to answer difficult questions about drug policy, our stances on drug use, and our plans for reform. Students learned how to answer these questions and how to hold their ground when up against opposing arguments.
Led by Alfred Kilzi and James Tarkington, the “On the Record Project” workshop trained students on how to make drug policy reform a mainstream and pressing issue by getting legislators and candidates ‘on the record’ about drug policy. Students learned how to approach candidates, record and disseminate responses as soon as possible, and that the best questions to ask are about drug policy, not about a candidate’s past position on an issue.
Jodi James, Executive Director of theFlorida Cannabis Action Network, informed students about what’s happening in Florida drug policy reform and how SSDP can be a part of the effort. There are currently two medical marijuana resolutions in the Florida Legislature, one in the House and one in the Senate. Ms. James has been busy meeting with legislators and lobbying for these extremely important pieces of legislation, while simultaneously engaging the community in the discussion, and working with SSDP to generate communication in support of the resolutions to House and Senate leadership.
On Monday, we went to the Florida Legislature and met with the staffers of Senator Fasano and Senator Margolis to discuss their stances on medical marijuana and to provide them with important statistics and information to pass along to their Senators. These meetings are the start of an ongoing and hopefully very productive relationship between Florida SSDP chapters and their representatives.
So what did students walk away with from this conference?
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to help lead a workshop. It was a great experience and I loved being able to use what I’ve learned in my chapter to help students in other chapters.” – Alfred Kilzi, University of Miami
“I loved meeting everyone from different chapters, especially the students who drove down from Georgia State. It’s important to see other people who are working on the same things you are, and to be able to share your successes with each other.” – James Tarkington, Florida State University
“Everything! I can’t wait for the next one!” – Heather Sparks, Georgia State Univeristy
Our Florida chapter network is now more connected and stronger than ever, and with two medical marijuana resolutions making their way through the state Legislature, there will be plenty of opportunities for SSDP to help make a difference.