Written by Rob Pfountz, Heartland Region Vice President, SSDP Alumni Association
As a proud member of the SSDP Alumni Association, I imagine that my fellow alumni can look back fondly on their early collegiate dating lives and some of those cringe-worthy awkward moments. Surely each of you can recall at least one evening when that cute prospect lost their appeal when they blurted out their opposition to a drug policy reform you held close to your heart. If you were like me during those encounters, some polite conversation followed to determine their reasoning, but ultimately it was a deal breaker. Those reforms were nearer and dearer to your heart than any prohibitionist could ever be.
Fortunately for myself, I didn’t have to endure that special form of romantic torture for too long, as at the start of my sophomore year I briefly met someone while tabling for SSDP. That someone was to be the future mother of my child, but I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t until she attended a private MAPS event in Dallas, where Rick Doblin directed her to get involved with her campus SSDP chapter, that she e-mailed me inquiring about our organization at the University of Arkansas. I advised her to contact the new chapter president, as I was occupied with the medical marijuana campaign Arkansans for Compassionate Care.
A year passed. Passionate to fight for the cause but busy with school, she waited to get involved at a more convenient time, as so many do. Then, as fate would have it, we met one night at a party in late summer, sometime around 4 am. Our lives were different from that moment forward.
Casey and I thought ourselves to be strangers at first. However, when our last names were revealed, so were our prior interactions, and a friendly stranger became an excitingly new romantic prospect. We hit it off, and transitioned our summer into a school year of SSDP grill-outs, signature gathering campaigns, and a debate between Ethan Nadelmann and Asa Hutchinson. As our time as undergraduates concluded, we welcomed into the world our son,
Nikola McKay Henderson, on July 30th, 2013. His birthday was exactly two years to the day from that late summer party where we met.
With parenthood, questions began to surface about my life and involvement with SSDP.
The drug war that had failed my generation was now lying in wait to harm a new generation, that of my son. No longer did I identify as the youth who fought to stop this war from being waged in my name, and I was hesitant to accept my new role. After all, it was the hysteria and moral panic from parent groups that had converged in media and politics over the past few decades to create an appearance of the drug war’s legitimacy. Whether a parent or a youthful student, SSDP had prepared me to question the extremism of the drug war’s punishment and propaganda, which in turn equipped me to teach our son about that reality. Honesty and facts regarding the harms of both drugs and the drug war are all that is ever required of me.
Many have characterized our battle as a generational one. No matter the accuracy of that assessment, the fact remains that we as parents are now the primary agents of socialization. That puts us in a unique position to alter the future of our society, and therefore the drug war in a way that wasn’t possible before.
We have since moved and begun an SSDP chapter at the University of Kansas where Casey is pursuing her doctorate in medicinal chemistry. Our recent chapter activities have included the pleasure of welcoming SSDP’s own Aaron Houston at a debate between himself and Kevin Sabet here at KU, as well as attending the global marijuana march nearby in Kansas City.
As an SSDP alumnus and the parent of young child, I feel that the best way to prepare this new generation of students and activists is to start them off young. It is imperative that we continue to shift the negative stigmas surrounding drug policy reform activists toward the more wholesome image of the family. This is not the time to relish in our success, but the time to push onward until the lingering threat of the drug war is no more. We have our work cut out for us here in America’s Heartland, and I look forward to working further with my fellow SSDP veterans in our new Alumni Association.