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We knew 2016 would be a banner year for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and we’re proud to say that students rocked it in 2016 with our relentless efforts to end the War on Drugs. Check out this list of our favorite highlights of 2016, then click over to our donation page to show your support for even more student-powered reforms in 2017 with your year-end gift. And now, on to our top 10 highlights of the year!
  1. Our best Campus Campaign yet
SSDP had a profound impact in cannabis election states this year, with students making 70,000 voter touches (including more conversations with voters in Maine than the margin of victory) and 100% growth in student involvement in targeted states. Our investment in full-time, temporary Campus Coordinators was the key to SSDP’s success: Austin Davis (MA), Colin Fitzgibbon (FL), Deuvall Dorsey (NV), and Oliver Zerrudo (CA) spent the year training and organizing chapters to respond to this historic opportunity. Legalization victories in eight states in one election cycle would have been unimaginable when we were founded 18 years ago.  
  1. Launched Just Say Know
Just Say Know, our groundbreaking new peer-to-peer drug education program, provides evidence-based drug information on campus, teaches students to recognize and address dangerous behaviors and attitudes, empowers them to reduce drug-related harm within their communities, and fosters analysis of the relationship between drug policy and drug use. Because students turn to their peers first when they encounter and experiment with drug use, peer education is one of the most critical vectors for the information young people need to protect themselves from drug misuse, adulterated substances, overdose, and punitive sanctions which are just as likely to create lasting harms. Educated peers can meet students where they are, providing the most relevant information in a culturally appropriate package.  
  1. Gathering the network together at #SSDP2016
With content envisioned and developed almost exclusively by students, #SSDP2016 delivered six plenaries and 30 sessions from 100 students, authors, experts, and leaders in the drug policy reform movement. From this foundation, the 532 participants educated, inspired, and empowered each other. The SSDP2016 program provided classic skills training in community organizing, policy change, and education. It also took a direct look at the most pressing issues facing the drug policy reform movement: the challenges of emerging cannabis industries, drug education in the modern era, oppression and privilege in the drug war and reform movement, and the global conversation driven by UNGASS. See you at #SSDP2017 in Portland!  
  1. Representing the youth voice at UNGASS
April’s United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem provided a unique opportunity for the global community to debate the outcomes of the international drug control conventions and country-level responses to drug control. On April 18th, the eve of this historic session, we bused more than 150 SSDP students, alumni, and allies from SSDP2016 to New York City for a youth-led open soap box demonstration. During the UNGASS, more than 30 SSDPers and youth allies observed the proceedings and represented the youth voice through interventions and intensive social media engagement. UNGASS should have been an inclusive, impartial venue to discuss much-needed reforms in global drug policy. Instead, youth were ignored and insulted by supporters of the status quo, sparking our #GrowUpOrShutUp campaign. Nevertheless, we also witnessed how fragile the global drug consensus has become.  
  1. Growing the team with new staff members
We continued growing our permanent staff team with the addition of two outstanding SSDP alumni. Emory Basso ‘12 joined the team in June as our first ever Operations and Administration Associate, who is using their systems engineering expertise to streamline SSDP’s operations. We also welcomed Vilmarie Narloch, Psy.D. ‘09 as our new Drug Education Manager. In this role, Vilmarie will oversee the development and implementation of the SSDP Peer Education Program, which will certify SSDP members to deliver our Just Say Know drug education program to their peers.  
  1. Continued to be the most effective campus policy changemakers around
Our outreach staff provided one-on-one coaching to chapters on 300 campuses in 18 countries. Some of our most exciting campus-level victories this year were:
  • University of Texas Austin SSDP removed mandatory suspension from campus housing for students who violate campus drug policies, passed a campus-level naloxone access program, and worked with the administration to enact a system-wide medical amnesty policy expansion affecting more than 200,000 students.
  • SUNY Albany SSDP received the President’s Award for Campus Justice for educating students about the harms of the War on Drugs.
  • Yale University SSDP received administration approval to develop drug education resources for incoming freshman in the 2016-17 school year.
  • Federal University of Agriculture (Nigeria) SSDP held a training on drug policy and harm reduction for peers and other student organizations.
  • SUNY New Paltz SSDP rallied campus allies to pass a student government resolution endorsing the Ban the Box campaign.
  1. Hosted 9 regional conferences
Over 400 people attended one of our regional conferences, which are a unique opportunity to for students to meet nearby chapters and exchange organizing skills and strategies. We hosted 8 regional conferences in the United States and one in Mexico, the most we’ve ever held in a year.  
  1. Launched our Alumni mentorship program
SSDP Mentors is a way for students and alumni to develop meaningful relationships that further the cause of sensible drug policy reform while aiding in students’ professional development. The goal of the program is to keep alumni connected to the current work that SSDP students are doing while simultaneously giving students an additional resource to utilize as they fight to end the drug war in their communities. To date, 37 mentor/mentee pairs have been matched.  
  1. Support. Don’t Punish. Global Day of Action
For the third year, SSDP joined our allies across the globe to participate in the annual Support. Don’t Punish. global day of action on June 26th, developed as a compassionate response to the prohibitionist International Day Against Drug Abuse. SSDP members organized or participated in direct actions in a dozen cities across seven countries and 200 additional students participated online, submitting photos to our online photo project and drawing their peers to the conversation through social media.  
  1. Grew the Sensible Society to over 200 members and counting
Our monthly donor club provides year-round support for SSDP’s operations, and started with a modest but committed 50 members in 2014. Today, the Sensible Society boasts 200 alumni, supporters, students, foundations, and business leaders. Join them by starting a monthly donation of $25 or more today!