Meet Richard Hartnell, our newest SSDP chapter leader at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Why did you want to get involved with SSDP?
My ulterior motive is that I want to get involved in psychedelic research — it holds too many clues related to my other interests (consciousness, movement, flow & peak experiences). For as long as psychedelic research is still mostly illegal, we generally won’t have these tools available to do psychedelic research. My less-ulterior motive is that our national drug policy (and, thanks to colonialism, global drug policy) is based on exploitation instead of enlightenment. Psychedelics showed me that an agnostic person can still see the cosmos as holy without having to swallow toxic dogma, and I think everyone has a right to that understanding.
What does a sensible drug policy mean to you?
Drug abuse as a public health issue instead of a criminal issue; a context for conscientious drug use instead of only talking about “non-use” and “abuse” of drugs; severity of drug-related problems proportionate to their actual harm (i.e. de-scheduling cannabis and psychedelics).
What do you hope to accomplish this year?
Building the heck out of the UCSC chapter! We’ve just pulled it out of inactivity and are already in the top 50 on CAT. We also look forward to being able to liaise between SSDP and MAPS, one of the world’s most prominent leaders of advocacy for psychedelic science; their office is just across the neighborhood from our campus.
What challenges have you faced? How do you plan to overcome them?
For quite a while, organizing the chapter was a solo mission — but we just got our first couple chapter meetings done and we already have really good rapport, good interpersonal connections, and a lot of individual tendency to work on harm reduction and activism in our own time. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up in the coming year!
What advice would you give to people who are thinking of getting involved with SSDP?
There are a bunch of other communities interested in ending drug prohibition, particularly groups centered around those ethnicities who find their friends and families locked up disproportionately for using the same drugs that white people do. Reaching out to these other organizations means a mutual empowerment of all groups. Another easy way to get students involved has been to refer to SSDP as “a killer social justice resume booster,” since not every club has backing and resources available from a national org.
A fun fact?
The week after SSDP2016 I’ll be flying back to Santa Cruz to throw one of the biggest juggling conventions on the west coast. If anybody wants to learn how to juggle at SSDP2016, hit me up!
Anything else you want to add?
Apparently psychedelics are active at some of the same sites in the brain as the placebo effect. Hmm, it’s a clue…!