Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s second regional conference of the year was a huge success! A total of 62 students, alumni, and community members from chapters all over the Mountain and Southwest Region gathered at the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado on the weekend of October 7th-9th for a conference that emphasized coalition building both on and off campus.
After students settled in with some coffee and breakfast, our very own Deputy Director, Stacia Cosner, gave a welcoming address. Conference participants heard her story of getting involved with SSDP, changing drug policy, pitfalls and how to avoid them, and conversation about where the movement is going. The session was a great, light-hearted way to begin the conference, and really helped set the tone for the rest of the day.
Ruth Kanatser of the Harm Reduction Action Center of Denver gave a naloxone training where she discussed how to prevent overdoses, recognize, respond, and administer naloxone. In this very interactive and lively session, Ruth gave an overview of the four laws in Colorado that the Harm Reduction Action Center has passed to reduce the harms associated with overdose. As a reminder, Colorado residents can find naloxone near them by visiting the Stop the Clock Colorado website.
After lunch, Regional Outreach Coordinator Tyler Williams ran a skills exchange workshop, in which attendees were prompted to pair up with other SSDPers they didn’t know to exchange skills and contact information to build community and strengthen the network.
The final session for the day was a psychedelic harm reduction presentation given by James Gould, Vice President of CU Boulder Psychedelic Club. This talk focused on psychedelic harm reduction, including safety information regarding psychedelics and their usage, as well as services and information activists can provide to their communities. The Psychedelic Club believes that when drugs are looked at through a harm reduction/minimization mindset, legalization becomes the apparent best route.
The first session of the second day was presented by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. Alexander Landau and Juston Cooper focused on ways to address and eliminate the overuse of the criminal justice system, the need to pay attention to the elections of head District Attorneys, the power dynamics and influence of a District Attorney’s office, and the nuances around participating in elections with a criminal background.
Afterwards, Dr. Ramon Del Castillo presented to the conference. With years of experience as a healer and director of El Centro de las Familias, a specialty clinic currently under the auspices of the Denver Mental Health Center, Dr. Ramon Del Castillo contends that one of the best approaches to addiction and/or mental health treatment is a holistic one- treating mind, body, and spirit. His presentation included culturally relevant techniques such as Teatro (theatre) as Communal Therapy, a culturally responsive theatre method utilized by the healers on the team in community settings. The theory is that by putting real life experiences on stage, participants can become aware of an imbalance they might be struggling with. Dr. Del Castillo also discussed his experiences being mentored by a Curandera as Curanderismo, an indigenous and holistic approach to healing, which was integrated into the clinic’s repertoire of mental health services. Dr. Del Castillo closed out by facilitating dialogue with audience participants relative to how traditional medicine is used within a mainstream psychiatric facility.
The conference closed out with two breakout sessions: “Taking Action on State and Local Campaigns” and “The Healing Potential of Non-ordinary States of Consciousness”
In “Taking Action on State and Local Campaigns,” we heard from SSDP alumnus Emmett Reistroffer about all aspects of planning and working on marijuana legalization campaigns. From bringing together stakeholders to draft an initiative, to gathering petition signatures, building a coalition, and organizing a winning campaign, Emmett walked through the process from start to finish.
In “The Healing Potential of Non-ordinary States of Consciousness”, Alyssa Gursky and Justin Weiss of the Naropa Association for Psychedelic Studies covered the history, present, and future of utilizing non-ordinary states of consciousness as a modality of healing. They discussed psychedelic medicine, breathwork, meditation, hypnosis, the artistic and creative process, and shamanism.
Thanks to the University of Colorado Denver and Metropolitan State University Denver chapters for hosting and to all the speakers who came out for the conference to make it so successful. A very special thank you to the SSDP Mountain Alumni Association and the National Cannabis Industry Association for sponsoring this year’s conference and making it possible. The biggest thanks of all to all goes to the SSDP students from Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, and New Mexico who attended this year’s Mountain Regional Conference. We can’t wait to do it again next year.