I am thrilled to introduce our newest chapter in New York City at CUNY Baruch! About 4 months ago I was contacted by Leland Radovanovic about joining the student movement to end the war on drugs, and I knew right after our first conversation that he was going to become a rockstar chapter leader. Since then, he has not only begun to hold regular SSDP meetings with students on campus, but has attended coalition meetings with allies in NYC over marijuana policy, created an online presence for his chapter, and volunteered at SSDP´ś successful NYC Sensible Soiree with another chapter member, Jake Plowden. I asked Leland a few questions about why he got involved with SSDP and his plans moving forward.
How did you hear about SSDP? I follow MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, fairly closely. I have a for a few years. They posted to Facebook that they were doing an AMA on Reddit. AMA meaning ask me anything. It’s an online interview with anyone who posts to Reddit. Rick Doblin and one of his communications directors were the interviewees. One of the most asked question was “How do I get involved in drug policy reform?” For students, they said to start a chapter of SSDP. They have staff who have started that way. MAPS is my dream job organization, so I knew what I had to do.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? Drug policy reform has always been a passion. It started right after I was forced to partake in D.A.R.E., during the 5th grade. My parents are progressive, so it was an open conversation about the realities of drugs and alcohol. Starting this chapter would be a way to make true change, with passionate people like myself. I’m tired of online activism. Electronically signing a petition doesn’t create or sustain social momentum.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc. It’s been hit or miss. CUNY Baruch’s strong point is their business school. Students in the CUNY system are worn thin from working full-time, going to school full-time, and living in the city full-time. They don’t want to waste time on pushing to legalize cannabis (old news), or be networking with anyone they can’t get something from. So, it’s been challenging to change that stereotyped image in peoples’ minds, of this type of activism. Legalizing cannabis is only a small part.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? First, I want to get all the CUNYs to write in their student, and student housing, handbooks the Good Samaritan/Amnesty Policy. New York State passed the law in 2011, and just last year CUNY adopted it in a memorandum to all the CUNY schools. The problem is that only CCNY has changed their handbooks and website to inform students. You can’t take advantage of something you don’t know exists. I would love to see decriminalization of all controlled substances. Getting a safe injection facility in the city would be huge victory as well.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? Getting people. Getting them in the door. Getting them to come back. Baruch has dozens of clubs. So, in a way, it’s easy to swipe left and keep looking.
What is the most rewarding part? Getting other students excited about reform. It get’s me excited! The rewards are payoff for all the hard work and persistence; in making meaningful lasting change.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now? I’m excited that NYC will be getting it’s first medical dispensary by 2016! As is it, NY’s medical cannabis law is restrictive. But, it’s a crack in the wall of old draconian law. If we can get more progressives in the state legislature, and the governor position, we’ll make more headway.
What is your vision for CUNY Baruch? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years? Next year, I want us to be holding regular training seminars, and events. Ultimately, I want CUNY Baruch to set the example for the rest of the CUNY system. I want ours to succeed in a way that everyone will want to start a chapter in their college. Then, we’ll create an umbrella CUNY chapter. Albany won’t have a choice but to hear the voices of over half a million students.