I’m thrilled to introduce the newest SSDP chapter: George Mason University! Chapter leaders Samir Lal and Vincent Rado first reached out to us a few months ago and have been hard at work since getting the GMU chapter revived. I spoke with them about their success thus far and their plans for the future:
How did you hear about SSDP? I had known vaguely of SSDP through my awareness of the current drug policy situation. A friend of mine at school who had been active in GMU’s earlier chapter taught me more about what SSDP does.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? I had my own hopes on a campus Psychedelic Club for some time. However, I was concerned that the GMU campus might not be the most welcoming environment for it. For some time I grappled with the issue of finding the best platform to advocate drug reform on campus. Rather than limit my psychedelic side to campus, it occurred to me that D.C. had no psychedelic society, so I started one in March. That is an outlet for the psychedelic side, but I still wanted a group on campus, and maybe one that wasn’t so explicitly psychedelic. After launching the D.C. Psychedelic Society, a fellow organizer introduced me to Jake. Jake had been in contact with another GMU student, Samir, who was also interested in rekindling the GMU SSDP chapter. Since then, Samir and I have been rebuilding the chapter and drawing more people in. Meetings and phone calls with Jake and Scott along the way have been immensely helpful.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc. Our first meeting involved 9 people. Several of the students present exhibited a tangible desire to help the group grow and proceed with the SSDP mission. It is summer time, and personally, I am not taking any classes right now, so I have not had the chance to gauge the faculty’s response. However, we are in the process of obtaining RSO (Registered Student Organization) status, which I believe will require some faculty involvement. Our next meeting will be tomorrow. I’m excited to see who shows up, as well as to determine what kind of progress we can expect to make over the coming summer weeks.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? I would love to pass a Medical Amnesty policy at GMU. Kyle, formerly of the Virginia Tech chapter, taught me about the policy that he and his team were responsible for at Tech. It inspired me. I would love to pass something similar at GMU. I’ve also heard complaints from students recently about unjust prosecutions following roommates’ actions (i.e. charging students for events that happen in their dorm room while they are neither present nor aware of the event). I’d like to see how deep of an issue this really is. If many students are undergoing similar dilemmas, it may be appropriate to reach out to the school about it.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? The most challenging thing about being an organizer is getting people motivated, not only in heart, but in deed. Fighting the War on Drugs is simultaneously a lot of work and a lot of fun. The challenge is in helping people connect their intellectual knowledge (that the War on Drugs needs to end) with their practical, daily inspiration (that they can do something about it, right here, right now).
What is the most rewarding part? The most rewarding part is of , of course, hing that process unfold. Watching a fellow student encounter SSDP, understand its urgency, and realize that it’s up to us to make it happen — that is priceless. It’s like a spark turning into a flame. The flames then shoot more sparks…
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ss
What is your vision for GMU? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years? SSDP is, by design, student-run. That is what is so beautiful about it. I would love to get the GMU chapter to the point that, in another year or so, when the Samir and I graduate, the chapter is still strong and thriving. At that point it will be up to that group of students to decide what actions are appropriate for them. SSDP is adaptive. I suspect that what we will be doing over the next 4 to 5 years can only be known with the passage of time. But I also suspect it will be awesome. 🙂