Students for Sensible Drug Policy
For the second year now American University has had their own Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) club which has been actively working with other chapters and the national office alike to eliminate the ridiculous restrictions set on drugs and even push for the possible legalization of drugs. Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society, alike.
Being so close to the national SSDP office I have had ample time to talk with all the faculty members about various aspects of their political work. Micah, the field director for SSDP, told me about some of SSDP’s more impressive and recent changes to the political sphere. For instance, Congress passed the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty in 1998 which would insure that any students who were caught with drugs or had drug related offenses could lose all their financial aid for something as small as one single joint. SSDP mobilized 125 student governments to voice their opposition to the unjust policy, and lobbied Congress. As a result, the penalty no longer applies to those who are convicted of drug crimes while they are not in college and receiving financial aid. In other words, if a high school student or a person taking time off from school is convicted, their aid will not be affected when they return to school.
However, according to Kris Krane, the director of SSDP’s national office, this small victory is not the victory he wanted. Krane hopes that by the end of this year with all the congressional meetings that the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty will be completely repealed so despite and aforementioned trouble with drugs the student will still have the opportunity and ability to remain in college if they like.
Legislation like this is not productive for our country either for the individual or the collective. In a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on the benefits of a college education and maybe even graduate school there seems to be little or no justification for taking away anyone’s financial aid. Especially over something like them smoking a joint when the convicted rapist sitting next to them in class is still eligible for their financial aid benefits. By taking away an individual’s right to education by taking away their means of educating themselves (the money) society is not only punishing them but dooming them to an entirely different life based on one ‘bad’ decision.
Many times, as a club member, people ask me what is the difference between SSDP and NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and surprisingly enough I found out from Micah that many people ask him similar questions. “When SSDP works on marijuana policy reform, it is part of an effort to attack drug prohibition in its entirety. This is because SSDP is concerned with the government’s prohibitionist approach to many drugs, and not just marijuana. In addition to lobbying for changes in marijuana policy, SSDP chapters work toward such goals as repealing the law that automatically denies financial aid to college students with drug convictions, and stopping high schools from implementing random student drug testing. Our main objective is to work on drug policies that particularly affect youth and students, whether those policies involve marijuana, alcohol, or other substances.” -Micah & Kris
As awareness begins to arise around SSDP in both the AU community and nationally I can only hope that everyone who is interested can get involved and help change the current policies aligned with all sorts of substances.