Pushing the State Policy EnvelopeAs our national staff continues to grow, we are very excited to announce that we are piloting new state policy internships in New Mexico, New York, and Arizona this year. The State Policy Interns are primarily responsible for monitoring, analyzing, reporting on, and developing appropriate student response to state-level drug policy, particularly those policies which impact students and youth. Additionally, the State Policy Intern seeks to develop or create, and maintain, collaborative relationships with state-level allies including drug policy reform organizations, harm reduction direct service organizations, and organizations working on intersecting issues. The State Policy Interns collaborates with the SSDP national staff, members of the Board of Directors, alumni, and other members of the SSDP network to further the mission of SSDP. We are incredibly excited to introduce you to our state policy interns Brett, Robert, Trevor, and Sarah, and we look forward to sharing with you what they are able to help our state-wide chapter networks accomplish during the 2016 legislative session. I asked the three of them to describe what they would do if they could only accomplish one thing during their internship and what state policy they would change if they had a magic wand. Brett Phelps (New Mexico) A longtime drug policy reform advocate, Brett Phelps first got involved with SSDP when he revived his chapter at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Since becoming an SSDP chapter leader, Brett has lobbied to change drug policy at the federal, state, and local level. Currently a second year law student, Brett plans to work as a cannabis business attorney in his home state of New Mexico upon graduation. If I could only accomplish one thing in this internship, it would be: Changing New Mexicans’ attitudes about the relative dangers of drug use compared to drug prohibition If I could wave a magic wand and change one specific drug policy in my state, it would be: Providing safe injection facilities (SIFs) and other harm reduction services for our most vulnerable citizens. Robert Belpasso (New York) Robert Belpasso is a senior at New York University studying Social & Cultural Analysis. He has an interest in reforming the punishment system and ending the war on drugs. Robert grew up in San Jose, CA. As an NYU freshman, Robert went to an SSDP meeting and has remained an active member, and is currently president of the NYU chapter. If I could only accomplish one thing in this internship, it would be: To end criminal history screenings on the college application in New York through the passage of NY Senate Bill 969. If I could wave a magic wand and change one specific drug policy in my state, it would be: A broader medical marijuana law that allows patients with depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders to gain legitimate access to an effective form of medicine. Trevor Thornburg (Arizona) Trevor Thornburg is currently a senior at the University of Arizona studying English Literature and Journalism. He has been passionate about drug policy reform for over 15 years. Trevor grew up in Arizona and North Dakota. Trevor became engaged in drug policy reform with NORML and expanded his involvement in drug policy reform when he became the chapter founder and president of the University of Arizona SSDP chapter. Trevor was the president of the University of Arizona chapter for two and a half years before successfully transitioning leadership to current University of Arizona SSDP members. If I could only accomplish one thing in this internship, it would be: Developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to succeed in a career of drug policy reform. If I could wave a magic wand and change one specific drug policy in my state, it would be: Reforming immigration policy so that the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) would recognize the validity of drug diversion programs and allow immigrants that complete them to remove the drug charge they have been convicted of from their record, and prevent lifetime deportation immigrants for first time, nonviolent drug charges. Sarah Diem (Colorado) Sarah Diem is a junior at the University of Colorado Denver studying Political Science with an emphasis on Public Policy. Recently Sarah has brought an SSDP chapter back to CU Denver and is working to collaborate and form relationships with other forward-thinking organizations on campus and the local Harm Reduction Action Center. With a particular interest in psychedelic therapy for mental illness and harm reduction implementation in the community, Sarah is extremely excited to work both through her chapter and internship to be a driving force behind drug policy reform and striving to affect change.
If I could only accomplish one thing in this internship, it would be: To open the dialogue around drug policy reform in the community. Colorado has shown itself to be progressive in marijuana policy but it would be it would be a great failure if we let the conversation stop there.
If I could wave a magic wand and change one specific drug policy in my state, it would be: Medical and harm reduction centers to being able to offer substance testing for users. Colorado has a huge live music scene which has seemed to be followed by a large recreational drug scene as well. Although individuals can obtain their own testing kits their possession and use can still be considered illegal; if testing services were offered in a discreet and safe setting from reliable organizations it could prevent a range of drug-related complications from overdose to adulterants.