SSDP Welcomes the Willamette University College of Law Chapter

SSDP Welcomes the Willamette University College of Law Chapter

Willamette Law Logo

Willamette Law Logo

Meet the chapter leaders of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Willamette University College of Law!

Adam Mentzer

1. What does drug policy reform mean to you?

Drug policy reform means to me a total change in the way that our legislators view and deal with drug policy as well as an end to marijuana prohibition by the federal government. Governments need to view substance abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue in order to treat the cause rather than punishing the symptoms of drug abuse: burglaries, driving under the influence, identity theft, etc. Only when we begin to reform the way we think about what the purpose of drug policies should be will society be able to combat the externalities associated with individual drug use.

2. Why do you want to be involved in drug policy reform?

I want to be involved in drug reform, because I believe that good people that make bad decisions because of their substance abuse need assistance, not to have their lives destroyed by criminal convictions. Additionally, I am a strong advocate of individual liberties, and I do not think that it is the government’s place dictate what a person can or can’t do with their own body based off of the government’s own moral convictions. Lastly, I was friends with an individual who overdosed on heroin and his friend refused to call for help, out of fear that he and my friend would be prosecuted for their drug usage. At that moment, I knew our system was broken.

3. What do you hope to accomplish?

Overall, I hope that the movement of drug policy reform successfully ends mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug offenders, ends marijuana prohibition by the federal government, and that the federal and state governments begin to move away from criminalizing drug behavior and towards a system where treatment is funded and used as the method for handling those who suffer from substance abuse. On a personal level, I hope to encourage local legislators towards liberal marijuana policies as Oregon continues to fine-tune their recreational system, to advocate and lobby for legislation that treats marijuana and alcohol on the same level, and to advocate for innovative programs, such as Portland’s new free meth-pipe distribution in order to discourage people from injecting, that seek to improve the overall health of our community.

Mackenzie Zook

1. Why did you want to get involved with SSDP?

I wanted to get involved in SSDP because throughout the country there is a lot of reform taking place on the state level concerning the legalization of recreational marijuana, and I wanted to get involved. SSDP serves as a vehicle to allow students to weigh in on these changes, and to provide information about new laws to the greater student body. In our state of Oregon, it is a critical time to get involved in drug policy reform because the laws and policies for legal recreational marijuana are currently being decided within the state legislature. Working with
SSDP gives us a voice to inform voters within our school community about these new policy changes, which will hopefully increase student interest and involvement in the exciting reform opportunities taking place right now.

2. What does a sensible drug policy mean to you?

A sensible drug policy is a policy which attempts to mitigate the negative aspects of recreational drug use without infringing on the rights of informed adults to make their own choices about what they put in their bodies. This means moving away from the current approach of prohibition and criminalization, and to shift focus toward establishing a regulatory system that prevents minors from getting access to drugs, provides unbiased consumer education about the effects of drug consumption, and offers drug treatment programs for people who need help with substance abuse.

3. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

We would like to get involved with the legislative process within our state in order to have our drug reform ideas heard, and hopefully adopted. We would like to document these efforts through the writing of SSDP articles in order to inform a greater number of impacted people within our community, which will hopefully drum up interest in, and support for, our reform efforts.

4. What advice would you give to people who are thinking of getting involved
with SSDP?

Think outside the box! There are plenty of ways to get involved in drug reform advocacy, and it is useful to try and come up with creative and original ways to promote education and instigate change. There are also several established approaches to enacting drug policy reform, such as hosting educational panels, writing newsletters or articles, getting involved with local policymaking, and organizing public demonstrations (just to name a few). The key is to figure out what your particular reform goals are, and then to brainstorm about what courses of action you and your SSDP chapter can take to further those goals in the most direct and efficient manner.

Alexandria Garcia (Vice President)

1. Why did you want to get involved with SSDP?
I have seen firsthand what drug abuse can do to a family. My father dealt with substance abuse issues which landed him in prison for most of my life and due to that, I do not have much of a relationship with him. The drug policy around the United States and across the world does more harm than good and needs to be changed and looked at with a different perspective and the only way to change it is to be involved in any way possible. We need to rethink the war on drugs before more lives are ruined.
2. What does a sensible drug policy mean to you?
First and foremost, sensible drug policy means that substance abuse issues are dealt with as a health issue and not as a criminal issue. I understand the impact drug abuse can have on families due to the way our government treats drug abusers. Sensible drug policy means that we turn toward preventative and rehabilitative measures instead of punishing people for their health problems. Second, sensible drug policy means that we move towards decriminalization and legalization of marijuana and not treat it as such a dangerous substance. Sensible drug policy means that people will have rights to use marijuana for medicine, therapy, and for recreation. Marijuana is an amazing plant with so many therapeutic and healing properties and the way we deal with this plant in our country and around the world needs to change since it has the ability to help so many people and so many different illnesses.

3. A fun fact?
Edgar, Mackenzie, and I recently marched during the 17th Annual Global Cannabis March in Portland.

Edgar Diaz (President)

1. Why did you want to get involved with SSDP?
I am involved with LSSDP to end the failed war on drugs. Our legislators need to view drug addiction as a mental health issue instead of focusing on incarceration. While cannabis may be legal in some states, the war on drugs continues even after legalization. In Oregon, we can smoke tobacco in public, yet there is no safe place for adults to consume cannabis. Also, employers have the right to fire employees for their legal cannabis use. I want to change drug policy both at the state and federal level because the war on drugs has unjustly ruined countless lives.

2. What does a sensible drug policy mean to you?
Sensible drug policy avoids false stereotypes and myths that have been perpetuated throughout society about substance and substance abuse. Cannabis has never killed a single person, yet it remains equivalent to heroin under the Federal Controlled Substance Act. We need to treat cannabis like a medicine and not buy into the reefer madness stereotypes.

3.What do you hope to accomplish this year?
LSSDP at Willamette University wants to bring awareness about the people currently incarcerated for cannabis crimes both at the state and federal level. We also work with Portland NORML’s legislative committee in helping bring sensible drug policy that reflects the needs of cannabis consumers in Oregon.

4. What advice would you give to people who are thinking of getting involved with SSDP?
There are many ways to be involved in the lawmaking process as a regular citizen. Whether testifying at a legislative hearing or submitting written testimony during an administrative rulemaking process, your voice matters and your voice can be heard!