SSDP is excited to announce the newest chapter to join our network! Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Michigan is already off to a great start. After attending SSDP’s 2013 Marijuana Lobby Day in Washington, DC, Reid Murdoch went home to Ann Arbor and started a chapter at the beginning of the Fall Semester. After some hard work getting the chapter recognized and established on campus, LSSDP at the University of Michigan is working on great things. I had the opportunity to catch up with our chapter leader, earlier this month about his activism, and here is what he had to say about his SSDP experience so far.
How did you first hear about SSDP?
Social media, originally. I was just on the E-mail list for a long time. I finally took the leap and got involved by participating in Federal Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. That was an inspiring experience and I’ve been active ever since. I learned about Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy (LSSDP) from you (Devon), Drew, and the gang in D.C. As an incoming law student, I knew it was time to bring this work to Michigan at the graduate level.
What made you want to get involved in the drug policy reform movement?
I personally got tired of seeing my peers’ lives destroyed by the Drug War. Drug policy is a cutting-edge social justice topic right now, because it reaches so many related issues. We’re in the midst of a global sea change on the subject. I work in criminal defense and legal services for low-income individuals, and the current policies are truly devastating to our clients. The Drug War has proven to be a war on poor and minority communities; this work is an inseparable extension of my “day job.”
How has the reception on campus been so far?
Everyone has been surprisingly supportive and welcoming. There’s an image of law school as a somewhat socially conservative place, and it is. On the other hand, people are far better-informed on the topic than in the past, and public opinion reflects that. Educated people are refreshed to hear policy reform discussed objectively at a high level. We got nearly thirty sign-ups right away and word continues to spread, so things are looking good.
What are some events and campaigns you have planned for your chapter?
I can’t give away all the details, but we have a really exciting event lined up for this spring. Law professors from around the country are coming for a panel presentation involving drug policy and hip hop, and racial justice. We’ve got lots of local speakers we want to bring in as well. Beyond that, we’ll be hosting film discussion events, screening films like “The House I Live In.” Some of us want to get into research and writing.
What is the most challenging part of your experience founding and/or running the chapter so far?
Getting official recognition from the school took persistence, but it was worth all the paperwork. Finding a faculty sponsor was surprisingly painless. We ended up getting approved 13-1 by the Student Senate. Going forward, an ongoing challenge will be persuading interested but hyper-scheduled law students to come out. That’s why we’re planning compelling events.
What is the most rewarding part?
Meeting brilliant peers and community members from diverse perspectives who all feel passionately about drug policy reform, and/or understand intellectually why it’s badly needed.
What are you most excited about for your chapter right now?
Holding board elections at our meeting next week! That’s the most immediate thing.
What is your vision for SSDP? What do you see your chapter accomplishing in the future?
SSDP impresses me more and more each year. The level of professionalism will continue to rise, no doubt. I anticipate increased (inter)national recognition and coalition-building with allied organizations. Our national leadership will carry us far: the D.C. team, the new board of directors, and our new executive director Betty Aldworth represent a remarkable pool of well-connected talent. I see SSDP alumni going on to influential positions in all aspects of the movement. I see our youngest members continuing to develop into effective leaders.
For LSSDP in particular, we’re working on strengthening our national network across chapters, fostering exchange of resources and ideas. An idea has been floated to publish a drug policy journal, featuring law review articles written by members and alumni. That would be incredible.
In the future, I’d like to see our chapter take greater part in community activism. There’s a rich history of drug policy organizing here in Michigan, and we look forward to collaborating with local leaders to strengthen the impact of our advocacy. Michigan also has a robust undergraduate SSDP chapter and we’re excited to work with them.
If you are a law student at the University of Michigan, please consider joining the LSSDP chapter on campus by reaching out to Reid today.
You can also see a full listing of our Law School Chapters here.