Introducing University of Washington SSDP

Written by Lukas Metzner ‘19, University of Washington SSDP Chapter Leader 

How did you hear about SSDP? 

In sophomore year, my partner, who goes to another school, told me about an awesome club she joined that worked on drug policy and education. The work they were doing and the community they were building sounded awesome, so I wanted to get something similar going at my school. She actually became president of her chapter the next year, which really motivated me to get this chapter established.

Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? 

Seattle has a substance use problem which disproportionately affects people in marginalized groups and those experiencing homelessness, and for a long time there has been some very toxic rhetoric surrounding it. At UW, many students and faculty work to address these intersectional issues, but there has been a lack of student activity on the issues of drug policy and harm reduction specifically. I think there is a lot of motivation and energy in the student body to push for change in these areas, and SSDP can act as a rallying point for that. 

What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc. 

Reception has been fairly smooth. Many faculty working in relevant areas are happy to promote our events and even meet with us for discussions. Recruiting during COVID has been difficult, but we’ve seen a fair amount of interest from students from a wide range of academic and personal backgrounds, and are optimistic about the growth of our movement on campus going forward. 

What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? 

We are currently establishing partnerships with community organizations that work in policy activism, grassroots organization, and harm reduction. Next semester, we want to use our numbers and will as students to help these organizations achieve their goals in legislation, and promote discussion on campus and in the Seattle community about issues of substance use, harm reduction, and mutual aid in the time of COVID. 

What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? 

The most challenging thing has definitely been meeting and recruiting remotely–most of our leadership team has never met in person, and we lack the ability to table and promote our chapter on campus.  

What is the most rewarding part? 

Meeting really cool new people from different social circles, all motivated by their passion to help our communities via drug policy and harm reduction. 

What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region right now?

We are involved with several local and state initiatives to decriminalize drug possession and establish supervised consumption sites–progressive and sensible policies that have found success outside of the US, but have been lacking here due to the ideology of the War on Drugs. We hope to build support to get these policies enacted and make Seattle and Washington a vanguard for the future sensible drug policy in the US

What is your vision for your SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?

In a year, I hope we continue to have devoted leadership after many of us on the current team have graduated. I hope we have a strong presence on campus, both in the activist community and through peer education. Finally, in an ideal world, the legislation we’ve been pushing for will have been passed. In 4-5 years, we hope to be a large and well-established student club with strong connections to like-minded student and community organizations. The legislation and policies we support will have been implemented successfully and with community support, and we will continue to fight for our communities to ensure full equity in health and justice.