Five years ago, I graduated from a high school class of 200 students and enrolled at the University of Connecticut, a public state university with over 30,000 people on campus. The culture shock of graduating from a rural high school to a state university was overwhelming. So I did what hundreds of thousands of college freshmen do every year: I attended an involvement fair and looked for my kind of people. I found them outside the building with hoops and face paint. It was the Students for Sensible Drug Policy club, and I figured I’d fit in pretty well there.
The first Tuesday after orientation week, I showed up to my first SSDP meeting. I went into the meeting expecting hippy-dippy peace and love speeches. What I got was an hour long discussion about the merits of legalizing and regulating heroin. It was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase “harm reduction.” All it took was one SSDP meeting to convince me that the War on Drugs causes more harm than any substance ever could, and the only way out of this mess is through radical policy change generated directly by impacted communities. I never missed a single SSDP meeting after that day. I found my family in the group. I found lifelong friends. I found roommates, bandmates, couches to crash on in every major city across the country. I found friends to hike with, to cry with, and to protest with. In college, SSDP gave me the tools to take part in huge campus policy changes, a successful medical marijuana campaign, and countless conferences that have transformed every aspect of my life. I’m a year out of school now, and I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with SSDP chapters in 19 states to realize dozens of campus, county, and statewide policy victories. I’ve helped students get trained to distribute clean syringes. I’ve guided students as they expand medical amnesty wherever they are. I’ve brought students to talk drug policy reform to Presidential primary candidates. I’ve amplified the youth voice at the United Nations, and I’ve coordinated social media campaigns that reached hundreds of thousands of people across the globe to showcase their work. I’ve done all this because of supporters like you. On July 14th, I’ll be turning 23 years old. When people ask me what I want for my birthday, I’m at a loss. There is nothing more I could want, because SSDP has given me everything. So as I look towards the next year of my life, the only thing I can ask from my friends and family is that you give a gift to the most amazing organization in the world. Will you help us end the War on Drugs by donating $23 to SSDP today?