SSDP is excited to announce the establishment of another chapter! This time, our latest addition comes to us from Springfield, Missouri where chapter leader, Zach Altland, started Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Missouri State University. Zach was faced with several obstacles when he decided to start his chapter in the conservative state of Missouri, but he persisted and today is finally recognized by his university administration. I was lucky enough to get to interview Zach this week about his experience. Here is what he had to say about getting involved with SSDP so far.
How did you first hear about SSDP?
I first heard about Students for Sensible Drug Policy while attending an event put on by NORML in St. Louis. There, I encountered a number of fascinating people who proceeded to tell me how I could get involved with ending the drug war. Noticeably, I jumped at the opportunity.
What made you want to get involved in the drug policy reform movement?
I have always had a particular animosity towards drug policy here in the United States, stemming from a very young age. At first, this disagreement was based primarily on a moral/civil rights posture. However, as I grew older I began to comprehend just how broad a scope the war on drugs affected. I considered it necessary to become involved, one way or another.
How has the reception on campus been so far?
The response from the majority of the student population has been remarkable. This is not to say that we didn’t have several obstacles just getting started. Springfield, MO is a predominantly Conservative Christian community. We like to call it the buckle on the Bible belt. When I put in the paperwork to be approved by the university to be an official organization, we were treated much differently. We were made to explicitly put in our constitution that we are not a “pot smoking club.” Furthermore, it was hinted at that we may be harassed by the campus police during our events. I was undaunted. What did vex me was that it took over a month for the process to finally be completed, when generally; organizations at Missouri State only take about a maximum of about two weeks for recognition. It was later explained to me that the Student Government Association was “confused” about a word in our constitution. The word…? “Democratic.”
What are some events and campaigns you have planned for your chapter?
Big plans for our chapter! We plan on getting plenty of guest speakers on campus to spread the word about the injustice that is the war on drugs. Get out and vote campaigns, various forms of activism, and of course, lobbying to decriminalize marijuana in Springfield, and the great state of Missouri! Stay tuned comrades.
What is the most challenging part of your experience founding and/or running the chapter so far?
So far the greatest challenge has simply been fighting for the organizations right to existence. As I stated previously, we reside in an extremely conservative area.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part was finally being acknowledged by our school. Also, it’s always marvelous to be an element of something greater than oneself. Currently, we are a part of a colossal network of people on the same wave length as us. Superlative!
What are you most excited about for your chapter right now?
At this moment I am excited for the great potential I see for this organization to change the political landscape in Springfield on this issue. We can at the very least generate an environment that fosters intellectual debate.
What is your vision for MSU SSDP? What do you see your chapter accomplishing in the future?
I imagine the prolonged existence on campus. I hope that we can branch out and unite with other organizations—the drug war concerns various problems other organizations are attempting to revolutionize. There is no uncertainty in my mind that MSU SSDP will be a substantial contributor in the struggle to legalize cannabis in the state of Missouri.
If you are a student at Missouri State University, and you’re interested in fighting back against the drug war and joining the student movement to end drug prohibition, please talk to Zach today!