Earlier this week we announced the launch of the International Activities Fund, which will assist SSDP activists around the world who don’t have access to the same resources often used by young people in the United States. Our goal is to raise $10,000 during the month of July to kickstart the fund. Today, we want to share a story from Marisa Morales, an SSDP leader in México.
Estudiantes por una Política Sensata de Drogas México (EPSD), the Mexican chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, was founded in 2010 by youth activists in Mexico City. Since former President Felipe Calderón openly declared a War on Drugs in 2006, failed drug policies have led to many deaths and disappearances in our country. México has experienced a period of violence that has particularly affected the youth population. For this reason, a group of concerned young people decided to form an SSDP chapter in order to counteract the harm caused by the War on Drugs. Our goals are to influence public policy through communication with government officials and to develop a drug education program. We want to inform people about the effects of drugs and drug policy using scientific evidence and without moral judgments that stigmatize drug users. EPSD members are currently present in 14 Mexican states, which is important because we need members in different parts of the republic and not only in Mexico City. Now that our voices are being heard and we are starting to have an impact in our country, we are optimistic about the changes we can make.
The current prohibitionist drug policies in México only focus on security instead of health. The government has invested a lot of money in the issue, but the expected results of ending drug trafficking and reducing drug consumption have not been achieved. That is why it is important to push forward reforms that focus on health and respect for human rights that protect people who use drugs and even those who do not use drugs.
It has been gratifying to be able to influence drug policy in México, especially because we are the only youth organization working on this issue. Currently, we are advocating for cannabis regulation. México took a promising first step last year by approving the use of medical cannabis. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision that we supported, three amparos have been allowed to grow and use cannabis, setting an important precedent that could affect future policy initiatives. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are moving forward. Some people, especially from government institutions, do not take us seriously because we are young people. They think we do not have the experience to work in politics. However, our struggle is constant and we have been able to influence policy México despite this stigma.
Our goal is to be able to continue growing as an organization, recruiting more young people interested in drug policy reform and encouraging them to join EPSD to influence positive change. We want to use our chapter to keep our peers informed on the issue of drugs and implement harm reduction programs in schools that emphasize peer-based drug education. We will also continue seeking fairer drug policies for everyone. We would like to see cannabis regulated not only for medical use but for all people who wish to use the plant.
This is a year of elections and hope for politics in México. We expect that newly elected officials will support overdose prevention initiatives and better access to healthcare for people who use drugs. Although there are some politicians who support this, others still do not and prefer to remain focused on prohibition. We have made progress, but there is still much to be done since the policies continue to criminalize drug users.
Since EPSD was founded, we have had some challenges raising money for our chapter. In México, there is little government support for NGOs, and due to the economy, not many people are able to freely give us donations. Our chapter runs on volunteer work, and while it makes us happy to see young people committed to achieving our common goal, lack of funds is often the biggest impediment towards achieving our objectives. We have come up with different ideas to raise money; for example, we sometimes sell shirts, sunglasses, and bottles of water with the EPSD logo on them. We have also worked with some universities to recruit students in social work willing to volunteer their time for EPSD. Although we have achieved a lot without financial resources, we need more income in order to develop more projects and have a greater reach within México. We thank the SSDP family for all the support you have given us so far and ask today that you consider donating to the International Activities Fund so we may continue to achieve victories in México.