Name: Duell Lauderdale School: Saint Charles Community College Position: Chapter Founder and President SSDP: How did you hear about SSDP?Duell: I went to University of Missouri my freshman year of college before returning home to community college in St. Charles, MO. That year I was involved with NORML and along the way I learned that they were partnered with SSDP (at the college) and that was the first time I had heard of the organization.
SSDP: Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? Duell: I am a political science major and I have done quite a bit of research regarding the drug war. The evidence out there confirms that the drug war is a quagmire, the drug war is racist, the drug war does not encourage individuals to get treatment for drug addiction, and worst of all, the drug war is an incredible attack on the basic ideal of liberty. Late in 2011 a campaign started in Missouri to get cannabis/hemp legalization on the November 2012 ballot known as “Show-Me Cannabis Regulation” and I was highly enthusiastic about it and the club was going to be a medium . On a side note, unfortunately the campaign only turned out about 50% of the necessary signatures. In addition to all this, I and many of my peers have personally been victims of the overzealous drug war despite being mature and responsible citizens in all other respects. If I had to narrow my reason for wanting to get involved with SSDP down to one word, I would honestly have to say: Justice.
SSDP: What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.Duell: Reception on campus has been varied. The truth is that Cottleville, Mo, the city which houses our community college of 11,000 students, is a somewhat conservative town. Sometimes our college is considered a bastion of “liberal ideas” in the area, but we have to take this term lightly because that is relative to the predominate conservatism of the area. This being said, when we first applied for recognition we were arranged to present to the Student Senate for them to vote on our organization becoming recognized by the school. Long story short, during the question and answer period of our presentation our cause was compared to pro-pedophilia and pro-cocaine legalization organizations (though the second one is debatable). We were represented extremely unfavorably, under the direction of an extremely self-righteous Parliamentarian (who still plans to attempt to do away with our org), in such a way that the members of the Student Senate felt compelled to vote against us. Our org then had to appeal to the SCC administration who took a month and a half for whatever reason to clarify that recognition was the only Constitutional choice and that the Parliamentarian acted outside of her duties. After we were recognized we appeared in a few newspaper reports, online publications, and even got a top story on St. Louis’s KMOVChannel 4 six o’clock news. I expect a trend of acceptance and probably even excitement within the student population for our first full semester in the fall because the response I have gotten from people since our media attention and establishment on campus is largely, almost unanimously, positive! All the teachers I ever spoke with from the beginning believed we had a right to recognition, it was actually misunderstanding and overzealous students that tended to be pro-censorship and confused about our first amendment rights.
SSDP: What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for the spring semester?Duell: Our first semester ever, the spring which just passed, ended with our recognition coming only two weeks before school went out. We were able to host an introductory pizza informational on the second to last day of the school year. For the fall semester, we have a line-up of at least four speakers. We have booked a day of our schools “Democracy Days” to have the Treasurer of NORML Dan Veits come speak with our school about cannabis policy. Additionally, we would like to host a prohibition vs. legalization debate, general informational seminars, take a trip to the NORML National Convention, even possibly advocate for cannabis decriminalization in our colleges home city of Cottleville, MO. We’re trying to dream big and work serious.
SSDP: What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?Duell: The most challenging part of starting SCC SSDP was the sheer amount of pro-censorship individuals that we faced in the Student Senate. We applied for recognition at the beginning of February but were unable to get a meeting with the Student Senate until the beginning of March. We should have become an org at the beginning of March, but when the SCC Student Senate voted us down and forced us to seek an appeal of their decision with our colleges administration, our purpose changed (temporarily) from informing fellow students about the drug war and putting on informational events to a fight to prove our Constitutional right to existence. Our greatest challenge was proving our legitimacy to the community.
SSDP: What is the most rewarding part?Duell: The most rewarding part of the whole challenge was finally being recognized by our school. At the end of the day, even though it literally took a semester, our cause and academic freedom prevailed. The administration cited that the Student Senate was Unconstitutional and the Parliamentarian and President failed in procedure.
SSDP: What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?Duell: Of all things, I am most excited about the possibility of the first American state legalizing cannabis. This would be possibly one of the greatest milestones in our fight against unruly drug policy since cannabis was prohibited in the first place. Federal policy is first influenced by the states, so this is our best opportunity to make our federal government take notice in the shift in public opinion on drug/cannabis related policy
SSDP: What is your vision for SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?Duell: My vision for SSDP in general is that we work together, continue to encourage people to form chapters, and make our mark by using our collective voice. Young people, students like us, have been the hallmark characters of socio-political change here in America for decades and for drug policy it is no different. In a year, I honestly see SCC SSDP as the largest, in membership and involvement, organization on our campus. These issues of drug policy are those which our generation is fired up for and we are one of less than thirty organizations at our school, most of which have a relatively small base of involvement. That said, I see a strong opportunity for us to be the most outspoken and recognizable organization on campus. In four or five years I hope to see that not only has our organization as SCC made an impact on the minds and beliefs of the students at SCC but also in the general community. As a long term goal we have considered going through the legal processes to get a decriminalization and medical cannabis law on the ballot in our little college town of Cottleville, MO. Good samaritan laws are also a step which we would like to promote and encourage. Overall, I see a bright, successful future in St. Charles Community College Students for Sensible Drug policy. It’s only going up from here!