Our network of student activists is constantly growing, and I’m excited to announce our most recent addition! Based in Oakwood, Georgia, the University of North Georgia is home to our newest official chapter! I interviewed chapter founder and leader Jeremy Sharp about their experience so far and their plans for moving forward;
How did you hear about SSDP?
Initially I was leaning towards starting a NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chapter at our school, but after researching a little bit, I found a link to SSDP on the MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) website. I found the SSDP website to be extremely informative, and they were tackling various different issues dealing with the drug war. The SSDP website came off to me as the more professional of the two, and I filled out a little info on the start a chapter web page. Within 24 hours we had a received an email from our Outreach Director Drew. Within a week we had talked to Drew on the phone and had a care package with SSDP stickers, pamphlets, and various other useful materials to hand out around campus.
Why did you want to get involved in SSDP and fighting to end drug prohibition?
I live in Georgia and anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Georgia will recognize that Georgia is a police state. We are also a central hub for DTOs (Detention and Training Order), so it’s hard to find anyone who has not been personally affected by the war on drugs. Georgia leads the nation in per capita incarcerations. 1 out of 13 adult residents of Georgia are currently on probation, parole, or behind bars, and 1 out of 70 adults are currently behind bars.
I’m tired of seeing people I care about get caught up in a system that operates on the presumption that justice is being served. I’ve seen too many people pass away from drugs. I’ve seen too many of our youth get sent to prison for drug offenses. We all know the reality of the failed drug war, but simply talking about it wasn’t enough for me.
What has the reception for the chapter been like on so far?
At first I was concerned about the perceived conservative nature of the administration here on campus, but I have found nothing but helping hands from whomever I have spoken with. I have adopted policies that I think will get practical information out without stirring too many waves here around campus. We currently have three faculty advisors that we are working with, and I have gotten nothing but positive responses from the remainder of the UNG faculty. The student body is extremely receptive to the things that we are working on. On our sign-up day a few weeks ago close to a hundred people signed up to our email list! And even more received handouts given to us from Drew, or printouts from the SSDP website. I really feel like student body see’s the faults in this War on Drugs. When talking with my peers I have yet to find someone that has not been either directly or indirectly affected by the War on Drugs. I’m trying to turn the negative sentiment from the war on drugs in a positive direction, and I know the student body is behind me.
What are some of your chapter’s plans for the upcoming semesters?
I’d like to talk about our plans for both this semester and next semester. This semester will be spent establishing a core group of activists. We will be focusing on campus, state, and national policies that we think need to be changed. Our main railing point will probably be establishing campus-wide Medical Amnesty/ Good Samaritan policies, along with getting facts out about the negative repercussions caused by the war on drugs. We’ve been working on getting a draft resolution on the Medical Amnesty policies for UNG. I should have a resolution for the Dean of Students on what the Medical Amnesty/Good Samaritan policies should entail for UNG by the end of October.
I’ve also been kicking around the idea of having a concert series on campus that would be a platform for getting knowledge and facts on the War on Drugs out to the student body. We will also be participating alongside Peachtree NORML during Pride Week in October in Atlanta. Also, I will put before the Student Activities Board a proposal for a grant for members of our club to be present at the upcoming Southern Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Conference in New Orleans in December. All in all, it should be a very busy semester. By next semester I hope to be enrolled at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus, and establish a chapter up at the main campus there. I hope to leave behind a coherent and cohesive SSDP chapter at the UNG Gainesville campus.
What has been the most challenging part of starting the chapter so far?
The most Challenging part has defiantly been trying to find the time to get everything going. A lot of the footwork in getting the chapter started has fallen on my shoulders, but I hope I can delegate the work needed for SSDP as new members come into the organization.
What has been the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part is being able to challenge the conservative image of the war on drugs. I truly believe that getting the cold hard facts out on the negative repercussions of this “war” will help mold a more sensible approach for the next generation.
We are the future and solving this complex issue will make a better world for our children. I know I don’t have all the answers, but if enough intelligent people come together to tackle and help solve this issue, we can come up with some amazing results.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
I really want to get the Medical Amnesty/Good Samaritan Policies established at UNG. These policies have the potential to literally save lives. I’m also looking forward to meeting like-minded people who care about our society and want to change our world for the better.
What is your vision for UNG SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
My main goal is to be known and heard throughout our, campus, geographic area, and the state of Georgia. I want everyone on campus to know who we are and what we stand for. Hopefully in 4 to 5 years I will be gone, and the chapter will prosperously continue making a positive impact in our area. I hope the common sense approach of SSDP will continue to catch on and inspire others in my absence.