As 2014 comes to a close, Students for Sensible Drug Policy reflects on our top 14 highlights of the year:
1. Increasing impacts before, and after, elections
2014 was a big year for marijuana policy reform. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia voted to legalize marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. With a modest investment in dedicated staff in Florida and DC, we grew our network and its impact. We also ran a national phone bank and sent Jake to Oregon and Scott to Florida for several weeks before the election to work with chapters there, resulting in more than 41,000 voter touches.
P.S. You can double your investment in the Campus Campaign! All gifts in support of the campaign through February 28th will be matched by a committed donor.
2. Expanding the SSDP team with Betty, Jake, Scott, and Lauren
We mentioned last year that Betty Aldworth would be joining our team in 2014. Then, during the summer of 2014, SSDP’s permanent staff expanded from 3 to 6 when we brought on alumni members Scott Cecil and Jake Agliata in the outreach department, and Lauren Padgett as our new development officer. We’re also grateful for the support of the three contract staff who helped us pilot new programs: Colin Fitzgibbons, Garrett Reuscher, and Dylan Schwartz.
3. Completing our first independent financial audit
We know, choosing to go through an audit hardly seem exciting enough to be included in a highlight reel. But this is a big step for SSDP: independent financial audits are a benchmark of transparency and accountability for nonprofit organizations, are expected of organizations of our size, and are required to qualify for certain types of funding.
4. Bringing the network together at SSDP2014
In September, we held our most successful conference to date! SSDP2014 brought together 400 students, alumni and supporters for a weekend of learning, training and networking in Washington, DC followed by a Congressional lobby day. We also rewarded outstanding achievements during our awards ceremony, and danced the night away with old and new friends. If you missed the conference or just want to relive some of the amazing memories, watch our short highlight video and check out our compilation of SSDP2014 resources and information.
5. Responding to the abduction and execution of 43 Mexican students
When we heard about the 43 students abducted by cartels in Mexico, we knew we had to do something about it. In Washington DC, we held a vigil for the Iguala students outside of the Mexican embassy, and a spokesperson from the embassy joined us to express their shared concern. Elsewhere across the globe, dozens of SSDP chapters held candlelight vigils or organized demonstrations to draw attention to the ruthless tactics of an underground market.
6. Saving lives through a new law in Georgia
In April, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law Georgia’s statewide Medical Amnesty/Good Samaritan and Naloxone access bill. SSDPers played a vital role in this victory alongside allies and coalition partners. Our students organized events to raise awareness, distributed talking points, held phone lobbying sessions, wrote letters, and lobbied their elected officials in person. Esmee Bancroft, Georgia State SSDP alum, and Jeremy Sharp, founder and president of the SSDP chapter at University of North Georgia, wrote a 23-page report on Good Samaritan Policies to distribute to the legislators, which was referenced during committee hearings. Thanks in no small part to their hard work, calling for help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose is no longer a crime in the state of Georgia.
7. Representing the student voice at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Utilizing our consultative status with the United Nations in April 2014, a delegation of seven students from Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom represented SSDP in Vienna at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The delegation was led by Graham de Barra, secretary and student member of our board of directors as well as Chairperson of the International Outreach Committee. While in Vienna, our students networked with global experts and advocates on the issue of drug policy. We also co-hosted an event with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Harm Reduction International titled “Protecting Youth with Drug Policy: Criminalization has failed.”
8. Creating a Board of Trustees
In addition to electing new student board members, our annual SSDP Congress overwhelmingly approved a proposal to restructure our board of directors to better suit the organization’s needs. We sought to balance the integral student-run nature of the organization with the need to bolster our resources, and elected to add a designated governing body of experienced board members to collaboratively manage organizational governance functions.
9. Changing drug policies on campus…
- SSDP chapters at North Georgia, Roosevelt, Western Kentucky, Tufts, and Portland State all pursued and enacted life saving campus-wide 911 Good Samaritan policies.
- Rowan University held their 4th annual Box City Protest to raise awareness about dorm eviction policies on their campus. This year’s protest received state-wide media attention over the legitimacy of dorm eviction policies at Rowan and other campuses in New Jersey.
- Dickinson College SSDP assisted the school with hiring a drug and alcohol counseling professional – as opposed to an administrator without such training – to oversee all misconduct cases related to illicit substance use.
10. & beyond campus
- The University of Denver Law School chapter worked with marijuana policy and industry professionals to ensure that Amendment 64 was implemented faithfully and functionally.
- Students from our Temple University chapter testified in support of the decriminalization of marijuana in Philadelphia, which passed overwhelmingly.
- Portland State University SSDP sent members of student government to successfully lobby on behalf of HB 4094, a limited Good Samaritan law that provides protection to underage drinkers who call for help during a medical emergency related to alcohol consumption.
- Two Nebraska-based SSDP chapters testified and lobbied before the Nebraska Legislature during hearings exploring a cannabidiol (CBD) bill for treating juvenile seizure disorders and in favor of legalizing industrial hemp in the Cornhusker State, which passed the unicameral legislature by a vote of 39-2.
- SSDP chapters in Virginia continued to meet with their elected officials and provide testimony in support of a statewide 911 Good Samaritan policy. Virginia Commonwealth University SSDP spearheaded a statewide medical amnesty coalition, Virginians for Safe Reporting of Overdoses.
- SSDPers at Tulane University lobbied in support of HB14 which would eliminate jail time for marijuana possession and HB720 which would approve medical marijuana in Louisiana. Chapter Leader Emma Tuttleman-Krieger is now working with Common Sense NOLA to help push for a local initiative to legalize marijuana in New Orleans.
- Through a newly founded organization, Protect Families First, students and alumni in Rhode Island led the push for a marijuana legalization bill, which passed in the Rhode Island House.
- Three Arizona SSDP chapters organized a rally at the state capitol when lawmakers blocked a provision to use state funding for PTSD research for combat veterans, garnering national media attention.
11. Ending federal interference in state medical marijuana laws
For 12 years, Representative Rohrabacher (R – CA), allies in Congress, and allied organizations had been working to pass amendments to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill that would end federal interference in implementation of state medical marijuana laws. By a vote of 219 to 189 this May, Democrats and Republicans both showed record support for limiting the DEA’s ability to harass and criminalize those engaged in providing compassionate access to medical marijuana and the amendment was maintained in the recently-passed cromnibus bill.
12. Upgrading to a new office
In March 2014, SSDP offices moved to Logan Circle from a tony, yet tiny, F Street address. This move allows us to add staff and create a more comfortable work environment while still preserving our intimate, collaborative working culture. While it is true that we will no longer be able to boast about running the largest single-issue student network in the nation from a 192 square foot space, our new 1300 square foot office (for only $500 more per month!) creates a space where we can spread our wings and enthusiastically approach growth opportunities.
13. Expanding our presence to 47 states
This year, we expanded our network to 12 new states with the creation of SSDP chapters in Hawaii, Delaware, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Montana. This brings us to 47 states in the U.S. where our students are actively working to end the War on Drugs.
14. Building a more Sensible Society
This spring, we launched our new giving club, the Sensible Society, which now has more than 100 members. Sensible Society donors make tax-deductible donations on a monthly basis, providing the stability SSDP needs to remain a dynamic, flexible, scrappy organization. Our progress toward building that more sensible society can only continue with the support of those people who care most about creating this future with us. Join the Sensible Society today.
As you can tell, it’s been an exciting and transformative year for SSDP. Help us achieve even more in 2015 by making a tax-deductible donation today. No gift is too small to make a difference, because our work truly would not be possible without people like you.