I’m full of joy to announce another newly established SSDP chapter, this time in Missouri. We’ve had folks in and around Southeast Missouri State University for a while now, and their hard work has paid off as the SEMO chapter of SSDP is finally recognized as an official organization. The current chapter leader, Karma Alvey, wrote up an excellent blog post about where she sees the group going. Read all about it!How did you hear about SSDP? Another student at Southeast was interested in starting a chapter, and reached out via our campus Facebook group. I had never heard about SSDP before, but she told me a little bit about it, and I researched it a little myself, and was probably a little overeager to get on board once I found out what it was. Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? I have always felt strongly about ending the drug war. It has never shown any positive result to my community, let alone a national level. Addiction is an illness and should be treated as such, rather than as a crime, especially when sentences for drug offenses can long outlast those for violent crimes like rape or assault. Another reason I wanted to be so involved was for my family. My brother has Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that often threatens his life. My brother’s condition could be treated effectively with cannabis, but instead, he is encouraged to take dangerous prescription injections due to the illegal and taboo history of cannabis. If I have to fight every day to make sure he’s getting the safest, most natural treatment out there, I sure will. Lastly, I care about the environment. The outlaw of cannabis in all forms restricts the growth of hemp – a plant that could improve environmental preservation efforts. Hemp plastics would deteriorate remarkably faster in nature than the carbon-based, high-weight plastics that we use today. Ending the cannabis ban would open up a new agricultural market for hemp, which would stimulate the economy and help us treat the environment better. What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc. Since I live in a fairly conservative area, I’ve tried to take steps to integrate this new community into campus smoothly. The faculty advisor and I had a discussion about the best ways to avoid publicity disasters, and we cooperatively review any material that will be going out to the campus at large, including Facebook posts and flyers, as well as governing documents. We’ve had fairly positive feedback for the most part, which has just made starting this new chapter at Southeast more exciting. What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? We want to spread the word about our organization on campus, first of all. Many people are very passionate about drug reform, and we want to bring all those people together and make the biggest impact we can in this area, because it is sorely needed. We will be tabling next semester, as well as fundraising to send some of our members to SSDP2017 to learn more about initiatives we can take as a chapter, since we are so new. In the way of legislation, Missourians have been waiting for years for medical marijuana legislation to come up on the ballot. Seemingly every time it’s supposed to come up for a vote, something gets in the way. We want to get a start by writing letters to Missouri state officials and ask them to push for a vote on medical marijuana this upcoming session. What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? I think the most challenging part so far was just getting through the student organization registration process. I would send the application in with the constitution, and it got shot down three times. The first time, it was because they didn’t want us to use the school name in our organizational chapter name, which is understandable. But the next two times, it got sent back to me because it needed “more detail.” I ended up putting so much detail into it that I didn’t know how anyone could force themselves to read it, because it was so unnecessary and dragging, but that’s ultimately what got it through the registration process. It only took an entire month, but it got done. What is the most rewarding part? Honestly, just meeting people, and mentioning SSDP in passing, and finding out that, yeah, they really care about this too, is pretty awesome. It’s really cool to know you’re spearheading something with such an unexpected interest, considering the usual values in the area our university is in. It’s been absolutely fantastic to watch people get so passionate about the subject and know that there is a place for them on campus, when they didn’t know they had that before. What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/SSDP/drug policy right now? I’m excited to spread the word about SSDP in our area because I feel like there’s an untapped source of students who are interested and just haven’t heard about us yet. I think, through tabling and other public events, we can find a hidden community that will work strongly together. I’m excited to watch us grow as an organization and to go out there and make a difference in any way we can. What is your vision for Southeast Missouri State University SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years? They say that the power lies in numbers – and I couldn’t agree more. I hope, whether it’s in one year or five, that our chapter of SSDP will work with other chapters at Missouri universities to have a real impact on legislation at the state level. I see this organization blossoming into a transcendent network of students statewide (and one day, nationally) who are passionate about drug policy and are willing to work together at a level larger than our respective institutions. I think that’s a realistic goal considering the sheer determination of us as students and citizens concerned about drug policy, and it’s a goal that, if achieved, could really make some noise and influence future legislation.