Our favorite 15 highlights of 2015

Our favorite 15 highlights of 2015

2015 was a banner year for SSDP, and you can read all about our favorite 15 highlights of the year below.

With unprecedented opportunities for local, state, national, and international reform, 2016 could be even bigger with more chapter growth, more new programs, and more new policy changes as a result. We couldn’t be more excited about what our student members will accomplish next year, and we hope you’ll join us in supporting the student movement to end the drug war with a personally significant, tax-deductible contribution. If you make a gift before midnight December 31, it will be matched dollar for dollar!

And now, on to our 15 favorite highlights of 2015!

  1. Magnifying our presence to 300+ campuses with 4,000 student members…

Drug policy reform has never been a hotter topic, and young people are — of course — leading the charge to end the drug war. That charge, combined with adjustments to our programs and strategies, has led to unprecedented growth in our chapter network. We started the 2014-2015 school year with presence on 50 more campuses than ever before and met our annual objective for 16% chapter growth in just the first few months of the year! And it’s not just more chapters: we’ve grown from 3,000 members to more than 4,000, and those members are more active than ever before.


  1. …in 12 countries!

Last year, SSDP had a presence in only 5 countries, including the United States. This year, with major reform opportunities at the United Nations on the horizon, we have more than doubled our international presence by expanding to 12 countries with at least one SSDP chapter or Ambassador. You can find a dedicated SSDPer in Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Ireland, Denmark, France, Nigeria, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and of course the United States.


  1. Growing the SSDP team

In 2014, we bolstered support for our growing network with the additions of Betty, Jake, Scott, and Lauren. We continued to grow in 2015, adding Tyler Williams and Frances Fu to increase the SSDP team to eight full time staff members.   Three outreach interns (Chris Harris, Olivia O’Keefe, and Alicia Porter), two UNGASS Coordinator interns (Sarah Merrigan and Sara Velimirovic), and two state policy interns (Robert Belpasso and Brett Phelps) have expanded our capacity and had meaningful, project-based internship experiences. In 2016, we will continue our highly successful Campus Campaign with the return of Colin Fitzgibbon in Florida and the additions of Austin Davis in Massachusetts and Cameron Oberlin in Arizona.


  1. Opening new offices in Denver and Oakland

The drug policy landscape is rapidly shifting, and nowhere are those shifts more readily apparent than Colorado and our Pacific Region. Our newly expanded staff is now able to serve students and the SSDP family more directly from new offices in reform hotspots. After spending the summer working together in the DC office, Drew and Tyler packed up and moved to Denver, while Stacia and Frances left for the Bay Area. With Betty, Jake, Lauren, and Scott staying in DC, we now have SSDP offices in three different time zones. Though we miss working in the same space, our close-knit team stays well-connected. Most importantly, the more direct connection to students in these hotspots has strengthened the student-driven nature of our work to end the drug war!


  1. Developing a web-based, interactive chapter activity tracker

This fall, we rolled out the SSDP Chapter Activity Tracker, or “CAT” for short. This is SSDP, gamified! In addition to providing an excellent outlet for our collective cat and shark obsessions, the CAT helps guide chapters through the SSDP activity pathways of chapter building, policy change, and education. It gives students the opportunity to earn points for activities and redeem those points for benefits, improves collaboration and competition among chapters, and keeps our outreach team connected to campus activities.


  1. Organizing seven regional conferences in three countries

In the Spring 2015 semester, chapters hosted regional conferences in our Pacific (Fullerton, CA), Northeast (Storrs, CT), Mid-Atlantic (Washington, DC), Midwest (Detroit, MI), and Southeast (Charleston, SC) regions. Our Irish SSDP chapter network also hosted their 2nd annual conference in Dublin, with 60 students from 3 different Irish SSDP chapters in attendance. In November, our University of the West Indies-Mona chapter hosted a successful Caribbean Student Drug Policy Reform Conference where 100 students learned about Caribbean and international reform efforts.


  1. Changing drug policies on campus:
  • SSDP chapters at Dickinson College, Virginia Tech, Salem College, College of Charleston, and University of Tennessee enacted life-saving 911 Good Samaritan policies on their campuses.
  • Baylor University SSDP Ambassador Nancy Tolson helped push for a medical amnesty resolution at the Big XII athletic conference student government association conference, paving the way for policy changes that would affect 10 campuses and 285,000 students.
  • Several chapters leveraged their connections in student government to pass campus-wide resolutions on drug policy. Student governments at Oklahoma City University and University of Alabama endorsed Good Samaritan Policies, University of Connecticut supported cannabis legalization bills in Connecticut, the National University of Ireland Galway endorsed cannabis legalization throughout the nation, and Northwestern University passed a student government resolution in support of medical marijuana access on campus.
  • SSDP students at University of Maryland, George Washington University, Dickinson College, University of Connecticut, Hamline University, Northwestern University, Rocky Mountain College, Saint Charles Community College, Salem College, Texas A&M University School of Law, University of Kansas, University of New Mexico School of Law, University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, Victoria University of Wellington, Virginia Tech, and National University of Ireland Galway were elected to student government positions.
  • New College of Florida has been requested by the Dean of Students to help rewrite the school’s drug policy in the student code of conduct. The focus will be to maximize student safety and minimize interaction with law enforcement. The school formed several task forces to reform policy with at least one SSDPer on each task force.

& beyond

  • Students from Dickinson College, West Chester University, and Pennsylvania State University met up in Harrisburg to lobby the state Senate to pass SB 3, which would create a limited medical marijuana program in the Keystone state.
  • University of Colorado Boulder SSDP got over 44,000 signatures on a change.org petition calling on the GOP candidates to debate marijuana policy.
  • Victoria University of Wellington SSDP met with Members of Parliament from every major political party in New Zealand to discuss reform. They also hosted a campus event with Peter Dunne, the country’s minister for drug strategies, where students were able to have their questions answered by the minister himself.
  • Irish SSDP chapters have been instrumental in pushing forward the drug decriminalization efforts occurring nationally. They hosted Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the minister responsible for drug strategies, at a Support. Don’t Punish event in Dublin, several students have testified in favor of decriminalization at the Irish parliament multiple times, and several members have even been interviewed on national television.
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México SSDP conducted a demonstration outside the Supreme Court before the ruling that laid the groundwork for marijuana legalization in Mexico.
  • University of Nebraska Omaha SSDP students testified in the state legislature several times for medical marijuana in Nebraska.
  • Bowling Green State University is working with their county to implement naloxone access and medical amnesty.
  • University of Michigan Law SSDP was invited to work with the Opiate Crisis Task Force in Washtenaw County as a consulting organization.
  • University of California Davis shared testimony at the Davis City Hall in support of the value of medicinal cannabis. City officials unanimously decided not to support a proposed total ban of medical cannabis cultivation and delivery in the city of Davis.


  1. Learning, connecting, and educating at the 2015 Reform Conference

Did you know that about 15% of attendees at the biennial Reform Conference were SSDP students and alumni? With more than 120 students and nearly as many alumni attending the conference, it was impossible to miss SSDP’s influence on the global drug policy reform movement. Additionally, several students, staff and board members spoke on panels: Ismail Ali (UC Berkeley), Frances Fu (SSDP staff), Vilmarie Narloch (Board of Directors), Stephanie Izquieta (Board of Directors), and Betty Aldworth (SSDP Executive Director) were tapped for panels; Vicki Hanson (University of the West Indies-Mona) was invited to speak during the prestigious closing plenary.


  1. Hosting a Model UNGASS

During the 2015 Reform conference, SSDP students participated in a two day Model UN style simulation of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS). Students each picked a country to represent, studied up on the drug policies and positions of those countries towards the international drug conventions, and were placed in one of three committees on the first day to vote on recommendations the committees would present to the General Assembly. On the second day, all delegates met together for a General Assembly session to debate and vote on a final outcome document. Model UNGASS offered its 60 student participants a unique opportunity to dive deeply into international drug policy reform issues.


  1. Representing the student voice at the 58th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Taking advantage of our consultative status with the United Nations, a delegation of students from SSDP, CSSDP, and SSDP UK collaborated to produce a side event during the 58th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). The panel, entitled “Protecting Youth from Drug Policy”,  detailed the negative impacts that prohibitionist drug policies have on youth worldwide, featuring the stories of several students who have been particularly harmed by the drug war. SSDP will attend the 59th CND session with an even larger, more diverse delegation than last year’s.


  1. Educating students about therapeutic psychedelics on the 920 Day of Action

On September 20th (9/20), SSDP partnered with the 920 Coalition to host a series of events throughout the country that raised awareness about the medical potential of psilocybin.  Sixteen SSDP chapters participated in the first ever 920 Day of Action, hosting educational events such as film screenings, lectures, interactive discussions, and Q&A’s with experts such as Rick Doblin of MAPS. Furthermore, as a result of 920 Day, 6 new chapters and 70 new students joined the youth movement to smash the drug war.


  1. Participating in global Support. Don’t Punish. actions

Along with our allies around the globe, SSDPers in the United States and Ireland participated in the Support. Don’t Punish day of action. This annual campaign aims to create a day when reformers around the world take their voices to the streets to demand drug policy reform. This year’s day of action had events in over 130 cities worldwide. SSDP helped organize events in Washington, DC, New York City, and Denver, Colorado. Our chapters in Ireland organized events in eight towns and cities throughout the country, including the capital city of Dublin.


  1. Connecting alumni through the new Alumni Association

This year we launched the SSDP Alumni Association, a new program that provides a framework for SSDPers to stay connected and involved after graduation. With 143 members across 23 states from more than 60 schools, the Alumni Association is off to a strong start! Alumni are working with chapters in their areas, hosting monthly regional calls between students and alumni, and providing invaluable mentorship to student members. And, through their membership in the Sensible Society, Alumni Association members generate about $2,000 per month in donations to SSDP, strengthening the organization that helped make them who they are today. Stay tuned as we continue to grow and develop this program in 2016!


  1. Launching a Career Services program

SSDP’s Career Services Program increases meaningful services to students and facilitates students’ employment opportunities in policy reform — and the legal marijuana industry as one vector supporting that reform. Eleven partner organizations and corporations place students in internship positions that have already started to result in full-time hires after graduation.


  1. Bringing the network together

Our network of students and supporters only keeps growing, and we celebrated with networking and fundraising events in major cities throughout 2015. We hosted more Sensible Soirées than ever this year: Irvine, Las Vegas, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. Our supporters hosted additional Network Events to benefit SSDP in Denver, DC and Las Vegas, where we introduced SSDP’s mission to new friends in the emerging legal cannabis industry. SSDP alumni also organized several events, celebrating SSDP’s 17th birthday in three cities, launching the Alumni Association in Oakland, hosting countless trips and events, and gathering for a special performance by The Wets during the Reform Conference in Washington, DC.