I’m thrilled to announce our newest Established chapter in the Northeast region, University of Massachusetts Amherst! I spoke with chapter leader Eli Kaplan about how things have gone on campus so far and what they are looking forward to accomplishing in the future: How did you hear about SSDP? I heard about SSDP through a family friend. Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? I think the cause is incredible and extremely important in today’s society. I am in no way pro-drugs, however, I feel that the current War on Drugs and government policy towards illegal substances is very flawed. The War on Drugs is an incredible burden on the American taxpayer and has proven to not be as effective as planned. I wanted to get involved with SSDP not to legalize drugs but to help change flawed policy that is a burden on society and an ineffective use of taxpayer money. What has the reception been like on campus? The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, I have friends and colleagues coming up to me throughout the day asking to get involved. What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? The plan for the next few semesters is simple. Firstly we need to grow as a chapter and we will be placing a major emphasis on recruitment and recognition across campus. We will do this through documentary showings, talks, and public speakers that will be advertised across campus in order to attract a diverse crowd full of different demographics and majors. On the public policy front, we will be directing our efforts towards the ballot in November to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. The legalization of recreational marijuana will save law enforcement money while freeing them up to work on other things that are more of a danger to society. It will also take the money out of the black market, creating revenue from taxes while also creating a litany of new jobs to stimulate the economy. What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? The most challenging part is probably what we are doing now, starting from scratch and finding new members on our campus. What is the most rewarding part? The most rewarding part is when, in early March, we knock it out of the park on our first event and carry that momentum into next year. What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now? We’re excited to jump start this whole thing. We’re starting from scratch trying to build something that has a real positive impact on the UMass Amherst campus and the surrounding community. What is your vision for UMASS Amherst? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years? We look forward to revising several school drug policies that do more harm than good, along with remaining involved in current drug policy issues that face our state – the ballot for cannabis legalisation and new policies addressing the opioid crisis in Western Massachusetts. In 4 or 5 years we hope to be a large chapter continuing to make a difference in the Pioneer Valley!