As always, I’m really excited to introduce a new chapter to the SSDP network. This time at Ferris State University in Michigan. Chapter Leader Michael Williams tells us about his journey so far.
- How did you hear about SSDP? Getting into discussions of Drug Policy and current events on various internet boards between 2004-2009, I had known of SSDP’s existence as there many members that were posting and many articles linking from SSDP or mentioning SSDP, but i did not know anything about it. I think the first time i saw an SSDP chapter was in 2008 as a concert with the AMPLIFY program and actually got to chat with a member and find out what its all about.
- Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? When I decided to go back to school in 2012, I took a minor in public advocacy. It’s been something I’ve talked about doing since i got here, but until now I lacked the know how to start a group successfully on campus or how to find members, my studies in public advocacy (Now my Major) have helped me develop into a strong campus leader on numerous committees, panels, task forces and organizations including student government. Last spring I wrote a large paper about SSDP’s choices in rhetoric and also got involved early on on with MILegalize where I met Nick Zettell, he connected me with Regional Outreach Coordinator Tyler Williams, and here we are.
- What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc. Most students have been quite receptive. Starting out with the petition signing for MILegalize gave me a great chance to find the students with similar interests, I’ve been able to establish a very strong E-board who already have become quite good friends.
- What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? So we have a few ideas. A well established and recognized RSO on campus is hosting their annual earth week activities and speakers and strongly supports our cause. They wanted to help get our group noticed on campus suggesting we host a speaker on Industrial Hemp for Sustainability on 4/20 during earth week (4/18-4/22). While we have some other goals as a group overall, we obviously all agree on the hemp topic and think this would be smash hit of a topic on campus. Also working with them would be able to cut advertising costs and make more effective advertisement as they are an established popular program host. Other Ideas include bringing members of LEAP to talk to our Criminal Justice program (one of our largest programs) and a Open forum on drug policy featuring a panel of some of the many professors on our campus that share our enthusiasm for drug policy reform.
- What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? The Advisor search was difficult, our first 3 choices declined. But their recommendations panned out to more faculty interested in advising than we can officially have on campus.
- What is the most rewarding part? Again the advisor search, while initially unsuccessful has now panned out into an abundance of interested faculty, we are already have great discussions on campus that really solidify our confidence and strength as leaders of the group.
- What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ss
dp/drug policy right now? Obviously MILegalize is huge for us in Michigan. A couple of our members have been collecting signatures already on campus, but a legalization model like MILegalize’s would be a big step forward. As a school I’m more concerned with just starting the discussion to see what directions we can best move, before actually changing policy, we already have a decent good samaritan policy in place which is great news. We will actively participate on campus by sending a representative to student government as well.
- What is your vision for Ferris SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years? I would like to see SSDP at Ferris become a safe place for open discussion on topics beyond marijuana legalization. Harm reduction methods need to be talked about and a shift from criminalization of all drugs into a place where research can resume and nonviolent users can make informed free choices to live peaceably with no threat to public safety. If all is on track we could be legalizing here in MI in year. I see us working hard with public safety in our area to make sure this transition is smooth for our students also to work with them to allow medical marijuana carrying on campus regardless of MILegalize outcome. In 4 or 5 years? i hope the snowball reaches critical mass and Federal de-scheduling occurs allowing state regulation of marijuana at that time I would hope SSDP will be pushing for things like a medicating room in the library:D and cannabis/psychedelic research in our massive pharmacy school.