Meet Daniela Vargas, a Political Science major entering her senior year at Humboldt State University. She has been involved with Model UN of the Far West for five years now, and found out about Students for Sensible Drug Policy through our upcoming Model UNGASS. Her goal for this year is to start and establish a well-run chapter of SSDP before she graduates, and I have no doubt that her passion and dedication to the cause will make her successful! Her first success was securing a faculty advisor for the group, who is none other than the Director of the Interdisciplinary Marijuana Institute at Humboldt.
Daniela is passionate about drug policy reform because she believes there needs to be more education about the drugs we consume. She is currently working with a group for the 2016 ballot initiative for legalization in California, and plans to hold a Know Your Rights event with Americans for Safe Access. Beyond marijuana policy, Daniela has a vision for a post-prohibition world. One thing she notes is the trend in research for MDMA and other psychedelic substances as a form of treatment. She is also interested in looking at the intersection between mental illness and rates of drug use and abuse. Finally, she is attuned to the heroin epidemic across the nation, and hopes SSDPers can help individuals across the nation see the importance of needle exchange and harm reduction programs and services.
Humboldt is located in the premiere spot for an organization like Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “Considering all the cannabis that goes through here and is produced here, it’s important that we as a school and university address it.” She continues, “Cannabis policy is something that affects me directly, personally. There should be a regulated medical cannabis industry, but I also believe that if adults would like to consume cannabis simply because it is pleasurable to them, I believe that as long as they’re over the age of 21, that is an acceptable thing to do.”
As a Mexican immigrant, Daniela brings an interesting perspective to the drug policy reform movement. When I ask what she sees as the biggest challenge to drug policy reform, she mentions Hispanic mothers as a group that has historically been opposed to cannabis regulation. “I’ve seen a couple of statistics just going back from Proposition 19 and how that failed. That demographic, I believe, women over the age of 40 and Latinos, those are two groups that have been staunchly against cannabis legalization. It’s kind of difficult for my mom to accept my activity within drug policy, because she doesn’t understand it. Culturally it’s been something that’s been so badly stigmatized. Even the word ‘marijuana’ in itself is a racist pejorative.”
Despite these obstacles, she remains hopeful. “We’re a new generation. We’re a completely different generation from the one before us. We’re the ones who grew up with technology, we’re the ones who have this very innate sense of acceptance. Sometimes we get bogged down by the generations before us telling us what we’re doing is wrong. What’s really important is to have sensible drug policy that is revolved around compassion and data and acceptance that sometimes, people will do something that we may not feel is right, but it’s not our business to be dictating that kind of behavior. More than anything, I would say keep trekking on and if this is something that you’re passionate about, do it.”