The chapter at Penn State first started up last winter when senior George Cimochowski decided to sign up as an SSDP Ambassador after being referred through some people at the Arcview Group. As an ambassador, George participated in SSDP’s Pennsylvania Lobby Day back in February, where he joined the Dickinson College and West Chester University SSDP chapters to lobby for SB 3, which would establish a medical marijuana program in the Keystone State. Following that, George attended the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference at George Washington University, where he was able to meet SSDPers from outside of Pennsylvania for the first time. It was then that George became motivated to take the next step and start a chapter at Penn State. Since he did not have much time before graduating and leaving State College, George held a meeting right before the end of the semester with some other interested students. At the same time, another Penn State student, Allen Vayner, reached out to the SSDP staff about starting up a chapter. After Allen and George got in touch, it was decided that the chapter would move forward with Allen as the chapter leader and George serving as an advisor in order to help see the chapter off the ground. Allen is excited to start working on changing policy at Penn State and beyond, while George, now located in Denver, hopes to learn more about the cannabis industry over the next few years before returning to Pennsylvania to start his own business.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Cameron Price has been hard at work since April trying to establish the second SSDP chapter in New Zealand, after the University of Auckland. Cameron was first referred to SSDP through Ross Bell, Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Policy Foundation, where he was doing some part-time communications work. Thus far, Cameron’s biggest accomplishment has been getting official approval as a student organization by the university and student’s association. This will allow them to do some tabling on campus and also to reserve space for meetings. Cameron and his chapter plan on holding an initial general meeting soon and have invited Peter Dunne, the minister in charge of drugs in New Zealand, to attend. Cameron also helped influence some other students at Otago University to start a chapter, potentially moving the number of SSDP chapters in New Zealand up to three while also securing an SSDP presence at the three largest universities in the country. Moving forward, the Victoria University of Wellington is planning on expanding its presence on campus, and several members plan on attending the 2015 Reform Conference in Washington, DC.
Congratulations to George, Allen, Cameron, and all of their chapter members for their work so far. I look forward to sharing more accomplishments of the Penn State and Victoria University of Wellington SSDP chapters in the coming months.