Recapping the 2016 SSDP Midwest Regional Conference

Recapping the 2016 SSDP Midwest Regional Conference

Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s Midwest Regional Conference was a huge success! Students from eight different chapters across three states convened at the DePaul University Campus in Chicago, Illinois on the weekend of October 21st-23rd for a conference that spanned a wide variety of drug policy reform topics.

Students from Cornell College, a longstanding chapter, welcome Davin Surio, of the newly established Michigan State University chapter

At breakfast, students from Cornell College, a longstanding chapter, welcome Davin Surio, of the newly established Michigan State University chapter

After students settled in with some coffee and breakfast, Spencer Rudnick and Kat Erdahl of Cornell College facilitated a Drug War Stories panel in which attendees were asked to share their personal stories of being impacted by the War on Drugs. The crowd was receptive and shared truly powerful and moving sentiments about how prohibition has harmed them and their communities, and told us the compelling reasons that they chose to fight back and join Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

After storytelling, attendees broke out into groups to do a variety of sessions: some students stuck around the conference room for a skills exchange workshop led by Regional Outreach Coordinator, Tyler Williams. Others left and visited the DePaul University archives to view zines made by people who have been incarcerated, many of who discussed the way that drugs and drug policy have impacted their lives.

 

Akemi Almeida of the DePaul University chapter browses archives of zines created by people who were incarcerated

Akemi Almeida of the DePaul University chapter browses archives of zines created by people who were incarcerated

After lunch, DePaul University chapter leader Amy Hildebrand moderated a panel titled “The Female Lead: Women and Drug Policy,” which discussed the intersections of gender, drug policy, business, and advocacy.

 

The Female Lead Panel

The Female Lead Panel

We wrapped up the first day with an hour of volunteering for the Chicago Recovery Alliance, making care kits for people who inject drugs.

 

 

 

 

The first session of the second day was all about the Midwestern states and cannabis policy. Students heard about specific policy nuances, projections about the upcoming elections and their national impacts, and deep dives into cannabis and cannabis policy.

Afterwards, our own Executive Director, Betty Aldworth, hosted a conversation about cannabis reform and Millennial impact on the upcoming election. We discussed the shifting demographics of the American electorate, the importance of young people voting, and put all these concepts into action by using the 2016 SSDP Phonebank System to get out the vote in key drug policy reform states. Throughout the weekend, we were fortunate to have Julie Prom, of the Sensible Society, registering voters and doing polling place lookups for students who were already registered to vote.

After lunch, we were happy to have the Chicago Psychedelic Club speak about past, present, and future research of psychedelics in the psychiatry field.

La Caravana contra la Represión en México

La Caravana contra la Represión en México

Finally, in what may have been one of the most moving presentations I’ve ever had the fortune to witness, La Caravana contra la Represión en México joined us to tell of the friends, family, and community members they have lost to the War on Drugs. Their stories were full of loss, pain, suffering, and hope that the message they have can be brought to people far and wide to spur action and justice for all of those directly impacted by global drug prohibition. We are so grateful to them for travelling such a long way to speak to our students, and we hope to carry on with the work that can end the War on Drugs and bring justice to their communities and our own.

Many thanks to DePaul University for hosting and to all the speakers who came out for the conference to make it so successful. And of course, a very special thank you to all of the SSDP students, alumni, and supporters who attended and made this event so special.