2023 was a big year for SSDP—we saw big staff changes (we have a new ED!), we made big policy changes, and we just generally did some amazing work to save lives and END the War on Drugs.
Throughout it all, one thing remains true: SSDP is still the most widespread, effective, and intersectional youth drug policy organization in the United States.
As a youth-driven force for change with close to 100 chapters across the United States, SSDP is the only organization in drug policy that can apply nationwide grassroots pressure—that unites across political, financial and racial differences—on Congress and the White House in order to enact necessary federal-level policy reform while our chapters continue to address the most urgent issues in their communities, creating change from the local level up.
Our alumni not only become the future leaders of the drug policy reform and harm reduction movements, but take the tools, experiences, and worldview they gain from SSDP with them into all kinds of different fields and career paths. In this way, not only is SSDP creating a more sensible world one policy victory at a time, but we are also actively shaping the future of law, business, public health, and policy with each additional young person we train.
We are incredibly proud of all we accomplished in 2023, but we have so much more to do in 2024. While recent years have seen many important drug policy wins, SSDP will continue the fight until everyone is treated with fairness, dignity, and compassion.
Young people have always been on the frontlines of the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is a War on Us and we are dedicated to bringing it to an end.
1. SSDPers from around the United States advocated for sensible drug policy in the halls of Congress and across the nation.
We assembled the vast SSDP network in Washington D.C. for a 4/20 Lobby Day where our members met with key decision makers within the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to push for important reforms, including legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis on a federal level, passing the Breakthrough Therapies Act to make psychedelic research more accessible, repealing the RAVE Act to increase harm reduction in music venue and festival settings, and encouraging the Department of Education to clarify whether the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act prevents students from implementing harm reduction programs at universities. In North Carolina, Chapter Development Director Jeremy Sharp and Psychedelic Pipeline Director Gina Giorgio authored the Breakthrough Therapies Act (House Bill 727), hosted an educational seminar at the capitol, and walked away with 15 sponsors for a bill designed to study psychedelic research. Chapters in Connecticut did massive legwork to support two SSDP-authored initiatives in the Constitution State: Senate Bill 9—which would help those in need access health services and harm reduction supplies and information, and which passed the Connecticut State Assembly—and House Bill 6787—which would drop 1500 current pending cannabis cases, and create avenues for cannabis clemency for past cannabis convictions, and which passed out of the Connecticut House of Representatives. In Georgia, Hunter Knight, President of the Georgia State Chapter, worked with State Senator Rhaman to introduce Senate Bill 30—which aimed to further decriminalize marijuana possession by doubling the amount that falls under a misdemeanor charge from one ounce to two—and Senate Bill 263, which created a ballot initiative that allowed voters in GA to vote on full legalization.
2. SSDP empowered passionate young people who are actively shaping the future of law, business, public health, and policy.
We established a POC-focused harm reduction fellowship in North Carolina, an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) accelerator program empowering young Black community organizers throughout the Southeast, and completed the fourth cohort of our ever-popular Psychedelic Pipeline, which connects SSDPers interested in working with psychedelic medicines to quality training, scholarship funds, and career development opportunities. We also re-launched our Biden Keep Your Promise Campaign in fall 2023, aligning with President Biden pardoning all federal cannabis crimes associated with simple possession and use this December. Several SSDPers were also recognized for the impact of their work in 2023, including outgoing Executive Director Jason Ortiz, who was named Connecticut Cannabis Activist of the Year at the NECANN Awards, and Board Chairperson Jeanne Porges, who was elected 2023 Campus Leader of the Year at Adler University for her work with SSDP.
3. SSDPers made headlines throughout the year for their incredible work in harm reduction, drug education, and policy change.
Almost every single day of 2023, SSDPers were featured in a newspaper, blog post, or other form of media. We even appeared in a National Geographic documentary on cannabis prohibition! We’d also like to give a special shoutout to our chapter at the University of Alabama, whose harm reduction work, including naloxone and fentanyl test strip distribution, was featured in a Teen Vogue article on how youth in Appalachia and the South are tackling the overdose crisis created by the prohibitionist policies of preceding generations.
4. SSDPers turned up in full force at two of the biggest drug policy conferences of the year.
In June, SSDP hosted our first-ever in-person meetup for mentors, mentees, and supporters of our incredibly popular Psychedelic Pipeline at Psychedelic Science, the largest psychedelic gathering in history organized by our friends at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). SSDP also co-hosted a BI-POC Fundraising Social at Psychedelic Science, and several SSDPers spoke at the conference as well, including SSDP board member Hena Malik, who presented on Islam and Psychedelics, while Psychedelic Pipeline Director Gina Giorgio joined a panel discussion on Psychedelic Storytelling. Then in October, SSDP sponsored a cohort of 22 Chapter Members, Staff, Board, and Alumni to attend the first International Drug Policy Reform Conference since the COVID-19 pandemic began, where we hosted a panel on peer-led harm reduction in college settings and an evening social for SSDPers and those who support us to kick back and network. Several SSDPers spoke on a variety of other panels, including Board Chairperson Jeanne Porges, Psychedelic Pipeline Director Gina Giorgio, and outgoing Executive Director Jason Ortiz.
5. SSDP alum and former Board Member Kat Murti ’09 joined SSDP’s team as our new Executive Director!
Kat began her journey with SSDP in January 2009, when she joined the UC Berkeley chapter (CalSSDP). Over the years, Kat has worn many different SSDP hats, including helping conceive SSDP’s employment pipelines (and starting the SSDP Jobs and Opportunities Facebook group), chairing SSDP’s committee dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality for over 8 years, and serving as an appointed director on SSDP’s youth-led Board of Directors for over a decade, most recently as Treasurer of the Board. “SSDP channeled my passion for human liberty and gave me the tools and network I needed, empowering me to become the activist I am today. I am so excited for the opportunity to lead SSDP into the next era of youth organizing to END the War on Drugs,” says Kat. We were sad to see Jason Ortiz step down from the role, but are very excited to have Kat on the team!
SSDP members advocate to replace the War on Drugs with policies rooted in evidence, compassion, and human rights because the War on Drugs is a War on Us. This work would not have been possible without our Sensible Society members and all those who support SSDP! Help us continue this work—our action and victories—by making a recurring donation or joining our Corporate Partnership Program.