With 2022 drawing to a close, Students for Sensible Drug Policy is reflecting on the drug policy victories we have been able to accomplish over the past twelve months. With campuses and community centers opening back up, keeping the potential risks of COVID in mind,, our students and youth leaders were busy leading efforts to advance sensible policies on their campuses, in their communities, and at the state level. In no particular order, here are 10 drug policy reform victories SSDP accomplished in 2022 to end drug war criminalization, reduce potential harms associated with substance use, and repair the damage caused by decades of racially biased enforcement of the War on Drugs.
1. Our Ann Arbor Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy campaign launched
On March 16th, our University of Michigan chapter held a launch event to unveil the Ann Arbor Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy as a part of SSDP’s campaign to advocate for drug decriminalization by introducing local resolutions to remove funding for the enforcement of low-level substance penalties. The chapter had a hybrid Zoom/in-person event with speakers including State Representative Yousef Rabhi, State Senator Jeff Irwin’s Chief of Staff, Annie Sommerville, and University of Michigan SSDP Chapter President Matt Dargay ‘21. SSDP also has Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy campaigns in four other cities across the U.S., with more launch events planned for 2023.
2. We held a North Carolina lobby day for our psychedelic-assisted therapy research resolution
On March 29th, SSDP Outreach Coordinator Jeremy Sharp ‘13 and Psychedelic Pipeline Director Gina Giorgio ‘20 lobbied in Raleigh for SSDP’s Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Research Resolution. State Representative John Autry pledged to sponsor the legislation to research the clinical uses of psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine for the treatment of PTSD, substance use disorder, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, bipolar disorder, and migraines.
3. The MORE Act passed for a second time in the House of Representatives
On April 1st, the MORE Act, a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, passed for the second time in the U.S. House of Representatives. SSDP advocated for the MORE Act as part of the Marijuana Justice Coalition. From the passing of the Controlled Substances Act and its implementation in 1971 to now, hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested for marijuana possession. With the introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in the Senate, Congress is slowly but surely feeling the pressure caused by decades of drug policy reform advocacy to end the war on cannabis.
4. We held our first California Summer Psychedelic Symposium
On July 18th, we held our inaugural Summer Psychedelic Symposium featuring keynote speaker Dr. Rick Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Other speakers included Senator Scott Wiener, author of SB519 to decriminalize certain hallucinogenic substances in CA; Steven Huang, the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion officer for the Mulitidisplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies; and Vilmarie Narloch PsyD ’09, a psychedelic therapist and co-founder of Sana Healing Collective.
5. SSDPers decriminalized cannabis in Athens, Georgia
On August 2nd, Athens-Clarke County voted in favor of Georgia’s most comprehensive marijuana decriminalization ordinance thanks to an effort led by University of Georgia SSDP. The ordinance reduced the penalties for possession of misdemeanor amounts of marijuana (defined as less than 28 grams) by making such infractions a $35 fine,the lowest fine allowed by the state of Georgia. SSDP Board of Directors Vice Chair Raiden Washington ‘21 and Executive Director of Legalizing Georgia Hunter Knight ’16 provided comment on this eventual victory back in June after the Athens-Clarke County Legislative Review Committee approved the ordinance:
Raiden Washington ‘21: “Drug policy that provides equitable access and harm reduction resources is a non-partisan issue. The Drug War has affected all communities across identity and political lines, whether that’s due to losing loved ones to overdoses or incarceration. It’s time we stand together for our entire community’s betterment. The tools of the masters have been used by those who are oppressed.”
Hunter Knight ’16: “It feels pretty good that the system that was built with ill intentions is slowly being reversed by the people it affects the most.”
6. Our Scientific Research Issue Group defeated a DEA effort to move two psychedelic compounds into Schedule 1
On August 26th, the DEA withdrew proposed Schedule I status for 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) and 2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine (DOC) after a successful campaign from SSDP’s Scientific Research Issue Group to push back on the DEA’s effort to criminalize psychedelic research.
Members of our Scientific Research Issue Group filed a motion with the DEA requesting a hearing to provide expert testimony and prevent the proposed Schedule I status from moving forward. The company Panacea Plant Sciences also filed a request for a hearing separately contributing to opposition of the motion.
Although they lacked substantial scientific evidence to justify Schedule I status, the DEA stated that there is “high abuse potential” for DOI and DOC on the basis that these compounds can substitute for LSD or psilocybin in drug discrimination tasks in rodents. After substantial scientific evidence was submitted refuting this excuse, the DEA withdrew its proposal.
7. SSDP and Last Prisoner Project hold a direct action to free *all* cannabis prisoners in DC, start ‘Keep Your Promise’ Campaign
In September, SSDP announced our campaign to pressure President Biden to fulfull his promise to release the country’s federal cannabis prisoners, consisting of a series of demonstrations and civil disobedience actions in DC and campaign offices across the country. On October 24th, we held our day of mass action, bringing SSDP members, alumni, and supporters from across the country to the White House to highlight our demands. The day of action was capped with Columbia University SSDP’s Sarah Noon ‘19 being arrested by Secret Service, who was let out the following day.
8. Our Drug Free Schools and Community Act (DFSCA) Intern, Nina Christie ‘20, spoke at the National Harm Reduction Conference about harm reduction on college campuses
In October, SSDP’s former Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Intern, Nina Christie ‘21, presented “Listen to Young People: How to Implement Harm Reduction in the Collegiate Setting” to a packed room at the National Harm Reduction Coalition Conference! Nina presented on the various harm reduction programs available to universities who are serious about supporting the health of their communities. Check out some pictures from the event on our Instagram!
9. SSDPers decriminalized cannabis in Denton, TXOn November 8th (Election Day), citizens of Denton, TX voted to decriminalize cannabis in a ballot measure that was spearheaded by our University of North Texas (UNT) chapter. Tristan Seikel ’18, a UNT SSDP alumnus and founder of Decriminalize Denton, shared his thoughts on the campaign victory:
“Decriminalize Denton really began as a campaign started by UNT SSDP to change our city’s outdated and racist cannabis laws. After years of fighting for cannabis decriminalization through advocacy to city council and not getting the results we wanted, we decided to pursue this policy change through a ballot initiative last spring. The current cohort at UNT SSDP played an incredibly large role in supporting our organization before Prop B, helping gather thousands of signatures to place Prop B on the ballot…more recently, they were instrumental in canvassing Denton voters to encourage support for the ordinance. I am beyond proud of the work that we were able to accomplish by linking forces between Decriminalize Denton and UNT SSDP along with other key state, local, and regional allies!”
10. University of California San Diego and University of California Berkeley implement naloxone programs on campus
Two of our California chapters saw big wins this year with successful campaigns to implement naloxone distribution on campus. UC Berkeley SSDP helped facilitate the implementation of naloxone distribution through Student Health Services this Spring, and UC San Diego SSDP received word that their Student Health Services would be implementing naloxone distribution on campus next Spring.
With these policy victories in mind, SSDP is planning to utilize this momentum to continue fighting against the War on Drugs in 2023. However, we can not continue our efforts without continued activism from students and young people across the country. Make 2023 the year you said ‘no’ to the War on Drugs – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.