I didn’t join SSDP while I was in college. I hadn’t even heard of it until far too late into my senior year. If I hadn’t been turned down for an internship during my first year of law school, I would have never co-founded my chapter, and joined a family that has changed my life.
I always talk about the career opportunities that SSDP has given me. The leadership and advocacy skills it helped me develop. A serendipitous post in the SSDP Jobs and Opportunities group on Facebook that led to a job at the Marijuana Policy Project (thanks, Sam Tracy ’09!). And a recommendation for that job that (hopefully) contributed to me getting it (thanks, Aaron Houston!).
But my time as an SSDP student was incredibly brief. I didn’t have the honor of getting to know this organization on a personal level until after I graduated. Once I accepted that job at MPP, I moved to Washington, DC, where I knew literally nobody. Okay, I knew Drew Stromberg ’09. But I needed other friends too. So I hit up Mike Liszewski ’07, whom I knew vaguely from one conference but mostly the Internet, and he gamely invited me to his punk rock record store. He introduced me to his cat-loving girlfriend, Lauren Padgett, officially the first friend I met in DC. And later, I attended a rooftop vegan potluck, where I joined fellow SSDP alumni Tyler Smith, Tom Angell ’00, and that guy Thomas Silverstein ’05.
The Reformatory, the iconic SSDP house where Mike and Sam and Brandon Levey ’09 and Crystal lived at the time (but that has housed so many more SSDPers before and after), became my regular weekend haunt. One Hitters softball games became the highlight of my summer weeks. I went on the Northeast Camping Trip, where jiggly jugs were born, and then the Mid-Atlantic Camping Trip, where jiggly jugs became legends. I was invited to join a podcast with fellow SSDP alumni, which has become the most rewarding (and unexpectedly successful!) hobby I’ve ever had. And during Strategy Summits, I was blown away by visionary young chapter leaders like Frances Fu ’11 and Steph Izquieta ’13, who were eager to grapple with difficult issues like race and racism, that dark cloud that continues to hang over our drug policies. And the SSDP staff became my Catan crew, and my Game of Thrones crew, and, eventually, my GOP WTF debate night crew.
And when I started working remotely for my job, alone from my living room, and increasingly depressed because I’m an extrovert who can’t handle being so isolated, Scott Cecil ’10 and the rest of the DC staff invited me into their office and gave me a home. During my increasingly frequent trips to Denver, I always knew I had a couch to crash on at chez Kat Humphries ’10 or Andrew Livingston ’09. And what’s incredible is that I’m sure I now have a couch to crash on in nearly every major city in the U.S.
SSDP has not only given me an impressive professional network, but also an inimitable social support network. “Inimitable” means “so good or unusual as to be impossible to copy.” That’s you, SSDP. So impossibly good. So impossibly weird. So impossible to copy. And I’m proud to have you as my friends and family.
If you too want friends like these, join the SSDP Alumni Association.
And for those of you who don’t like friends, but like full circles: The internship I was denied during my first year of law school was for Sensible Colorado, a non-profit representing medical cannabis patients’ rights. Upon founding my SSDP chapter, I had a good excuse to reach back out to them. For our first chapter event, I invited executive director Brian Vicente to speak about Amendment 64, a ballot initiative he was running to legalize marijuana in Colorado. By the end of the event, Brian had offered me a job. The rest, as they say, is history.