I am extremely excited to welcome the University of Oregon chapter into the SSDP family! The founding members include Laura Huskey (Math and Computer Science freshman), Misa Smith (Sociology Senior), and Michael Worcester (Political Science Senior, dual-enrolled at Lane Community College). Fun fact – they share the same birthday as Students for Sensible Drug Policy!
I met all of them at one of the first gatherings of University of Oregon for Bernie Sanders. All of them were seeking a way to get politically involved, and were familiar with the negative impacts of the drug war. “Heroin overdose and opiate overdose in general is a huge problem in Oregon and on campus,” Misa says, citing the presence of harm reduction organizations like White Bird and its CAHOOTS program. Both Misa and Laura have relatives and loved ones who identify as drug users and distributors. They hope to use SSDP as a way to promote harm reduction oriented practices.
To Laura, a sensible drug policy means that “drug use and addiction should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. People should be able to access healthcare and education before entering the criminal justice system.”Along the same lines, Misa has seen how the War on Drugs interferes with the transmission of open and honest information, especially at raves. DanceSafe, for example, is no longer permitted to distribute harm reduction information at festivals anymore. Despite this, many festival goers have taken it upon themselves to distribute that information themselves – one of the chapter’s biggest priorities for the school year is educating their campus about safer drug use. To Misa, a sensible drug policy means “acknowledging that there is recreational use, and not delegitimizing that because we have different morals than others, lowering incarceration rates, and reforming our scheduling system.”
Michael believes that the War on Drugs is immoral, citing government influence in drug epidemics in the first place, from Senator Mitch McConnell’s recent alleged involvement in cocaine trafficking to the CIA’s involvement in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. “Our drug policy is also inefficient – decriminalization and education are better than incarceration,” he says. Although he is just starting to learn about the War on Drugs, he is excited to do whatever he can to help.
Their advice to people who want to get involved? Just do it.