It's a great morning. All mornings are great. My body rises with the sun and falls with the moon. When I sleep inside, I am curled up so close to my window, I shiver with the night’s breeze; pull the covers up, lay back to sleep, pleased.
For me, mornings are rejuvenating. I love mornings that include both coffee and cannabis. Gratefully, I’ve been able to spend many of my summer mornings with a little help from my two friends. This August I turned twenty-five. Seven years ago, before I first left for college, I got high for the first time. A month after that, I began my freshman year at Illinois State University studying social work and psychology. Within the first week, I joined a drug policy reform organization on campus, Mobilizing Activists and Students for Hemp (MASH). I didn’t purposefully seek out this type of organization; nevertheless, I was interested in learning more about the war on drugs. During the first few weeks, I uncovered many "hidden" truths about drug policy, and, within me, it a sparked a passionate and vigorous outrage.
My first semester, I was assigned to a group project, a blog on cannabis covering both hemp and marijuana. The potential power of industrial hemp is a primary force that drives my involvement in drug policy reform. Hemp’s potential is substantial. It is highly versatile with over 25,000 uses, including: fabrics, paper, textiles, rope, paint, varnish, fuel, oil, biodegradable plastic, building materials, biomass energy, and food/protein. Hemp can sustain our world!
In MASH, our small group of ten primarily focused on industrial hemp and medical cannabis. We united with common goals and visions, which was very inspiring. After a year, our group grew in numbers, and we eventually evolved into the international organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). What a transformation! We went from focusing on select topics, to becoming political activists concerned with all facets of the drug war. We began attending conferences around the country, lobbying in Springfield and Washington D.C., and hosting more events and guest speakers at ISU. The more I networked and learned about the history and background of the drug war, the more motivated and involved I became.
By senior year I was elected President of SSDP. We hosted the Midwest Regional SSDP Conference spring semester. Some of the most memorable moments have been networking with progressive activists and educating communities on a variety of aspects on drug policy. That year, we brought speakers in from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Illinois Cannabis Action Network (ICAN), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), and our University sponsor, Pete Guither, who runs the enticing blog, DrugWarRant.com. I was honored to work with so many activists as we created an amazing conference. I’ve been able to attend many conferences around the United States and each time it is highly educational, inspiring and motivational. Hosting and even attending conferences always reminds me that we are not alone in our demands for reform.
Being a part of an organization like SSDP allowed me to be part of a synergetic force that achieves more than I could ever do alone. SSDP has major support and zealous activists who dedicate a lot of time and energy to maintain this strong and stable organization. Per their mission statement, SSDP “empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.” As harmful as drugs have the potential to be, a drug user may be impacted more negatively by the laws and policies concerning the drug, than the actual drug itself. I believe that education, self-awareness, and moderation are key factors in being a responsible drug user rather than a drug abuser.
Since graduating from ISU I continued to serve on the board for SSDP at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and for Illinois NORML. Generally speaking, many of today’s youth are apathetic towards politics. SSDP does a phenomenal job at mobilizing and motivating youth and students to be politically active and push for change. Everyone has a passion and we all have the opportunity to be politically active. Drug policy reform may not be your driving force, but something must be. With that, I urge everyone to find their political outrage, to stand up, and to act.