Currently, drugs have a negative connotation, politically and socially. A new student group on campus aims to reverse this connotation through education.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international grassroots organization, educates high school and college students about the misconceptions of drug use, war, criminalization and government regulation. Nine members make up the SSDP Davis chapter, which was formed roughly one week ago.
Members of SSDP work to extend research on drugs, advocate effective measures to stop trafficking, develop solutions to current laws, create policies and empower individuals to do the same. As the sixth UC campus to mobilize the movement, SSDP members of Davis are already making changes.
“We’ve had one meeting thus far, and they are super relaxed. We really want it to be non-hierarchical. We want everyone’s input so we can make changes that are important to the students,” said Sara Rodrigues, a junior communication major and member of SSDP.
The changes that the group hopes to make will begin at the local level and are aimed toward providing students with the right resources and ideas about drug use and laws within the Davis community and specifically on campus.
“We’re in the middle of figuring out what the drug laws are here in Davis. Once we establish what they are, we can work toward specific acts and changes that the community and our members see fit,” said Isabel Chamberlain, president of the Davis SSDP chapter and a sophomore managerial economics major.
Chamberlain said the group plans to work with the Davis Police Department, UC Davis Police Department and Student Judicial Affairs (SJA) to implement the Good Samaritan Act for Davis students. To do this, the group plans to complete a petition, which they hope to have ready for this year’s Picnic Day. The UCDPD did not return requests for comment.
The Good Samaritan Act, which is active in at least 91 schools across the nation, covers issues on all substance abuse. If installed, students will be able to contact emergency officials when in a situation involving drug or alcohol abuse without later punishment.
According to Don Dudley, the interim director of SJA, punishment for students involved in drug related incidents vary. There is no blanket decision.
SSDP hopes that they can implement the Good Samaritan Act and therefore change SJA’s current procedures.
“People don’t know their rights, and often they are too scared to contact officials for help. This act has already proven effective in the other universities that have it, and it will hopefully be helpful in allowing students to make the right choices,” Chamberlain said.
Along with the Good Samaritan Act, members of SSDP are looking at local issues that affect the use and dispensary of medical drug treatment. In particular, Chamberlain has been keeping her eyes and ears peeled for any new advancement in the dispensary issue of Yolo County for cancer patients.
“Currently there are no dispensary stations in Yolo County,” she said. “The closest one is in Sacramento, and for cancer patients, that short trip can even be a hassle.”
Chamberlain said Woodland is discussing installing a new dispensary station, and SSDP is hoping to be part of the change.
“We’re not a bunch of pot heads,” she said. “That isn’t the image we want. We want to legalize drugs, but we want to do so with the knowledge that the current image of drugs presented by the government is deceiving.”
Hoping to make drugs a health issue rather than a socio-political one, the group is looking to make a shift in the criminalization of drugs. Instead of wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on locking up drug criminals, SSDP wants to send these individuals into therapy and rehab centers. A change that they believe would be cost affective and beneficial in the long run, Chamberlain said.
Edgar Reyna, a sophomore community and regional development major, joined SSDP with the hopes of changing drug policies locally and internationally.
“I have seen many lives go to waste because of the laws that are in place right now, and SSDP is aiming to make sure those lives don’t go to waste and [instead] help society. Changing policies have the potential to save lives because of the way that they are enforced. SSDP seems like the perfect opportunity to make a change on campus,” Reyna said.
For information about SSDP meetings, speakers, events and projects, find their Facebook group, SSDP at UC Davis.
RACHEL LEVY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.