Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s (SSDP) Northwestern branch hosted its introductory meeting Wednesday evening on its centralizing and hotly debated focus: the merits of drug legalization. With a nationwide goal to implement compassion rather than neglect with regard to drug use, the organization took its first steps towards welcoming fresh faces to the table.
What began as a small movement in upstate New York grew into the 200 chapters SSDP encompasses today. Discussions remain entirely student led and facilitated, prompting a safe space free from judgment while fostering support and trust. The leadership board recognizes that drug legalization is a sensitive issue many people relate to and thus open the weekly Wednesday meetings to people on and off campus.
The meeting began with a question for attendees: is it natural for humans to want to alter their consciousness? After all, numerous cultures have historically utilized drugs for religious and ceremonial purposes, and some even raise the point that drug use fosters creativity.
SSDP presented the concept of harm reduction philosophy, which introduces the idea that there can be a happy medium between abstinence and misuse of drugs called “managed use”. Members who stand behind this philosophy argue that drug prohibition can actually be a more detrimental stance as it encourages underground markets, provides for little to no safety regulations on products and facilitates serious violence.
Tyler Williams, regional outreach coordinator of SSDP, originally got involved because, “I knew too many people whose lives had been negatively impacted by drug prohibition. Looking at my peers who had ever dealt with drug law enforcement, I saw that the drug prohibition was often more damaging than drugs themselves, and I wanted to work to change that, so here I am.”
An anonymous member of the audience at SSDP Northwestern’s recent gathering raised the point that if someone has the strong enough desire to engage in drug activity, they will. “If I want to jump off a building, I’m going to jump off a building,” they said. “When [drug use] is out in the open, it’s a lot easier to seek help.”
Caroline Naughton, senior and president of SSDP’s branch at Northwestern, facilitated the recent discussion and explained that she was ultimately drawn to the ability this organization gave her to “shape the future immediately”. She joined the leadership board as a sophomore, a relatively rare opportunity, and became strongly engaged in the movement from the get go. Naughton admires the national SSDP’s willingness to “cater to each school’s needs and . . . provide the necessary resources” to inspire change and constructive debate.