By Amber Langston
Last week, September 27 - 29, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) celebrated its Sweet Sixteen anniversary in what was no doubt the most successful national conference in its history. In sixteen years, SSDP has sent a strong force into the cannabis policy world with alumni now working for dispensaries, as cannabis industry consultants, as lawyers, as social justice activists, and numerous other related occupations. This year, students and alumni from across the country converged in Rosslyn, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to make their voices heard at their loudest volume yet to call for an end to the drug war.
A wide range of topics were covered, from the emerging cannabis industry to the history of SSDP, to engaging conservative media, to the importance of activism in the age of legalization (that was the panel I spoke on!) to filming officers during police encounters. Perhaps most importantly, SSDP provided an opportunity for young Americans to lobby their own representative at the heart of policy-making in nation's capitol.
Last Monday I joined Anna Richter, an amazing activist from the St. Charles Community College chapter of SSDP, along with roughly 200 other students and SSDP alumni, to discuss our views on H.R. 1523, The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, and H.R. 3382/S.B. 3382, The Smarter Sentencing Act. While Anna and I did not get to speak directly with any elected representatives, we did have the fortune to meet with assistants from the offices of Senator McCaskill, and Representatives Blaine Leutkemeyer, Jason Smith, and Ann Wagner.
For those who have never done so, lobbying Congress in those imposing, majestic, marble buildings can be intimidating. But the truth is everyone we met with was very friendly and thoughtful. While we didn't walk away with any direct commitments of support, my impression is that politicians everywhere are finally starting to pay attention to cannabis in earnest. I expressed my gratitude to Senator McCaskill for her work on sexual assault, and pointed out that we could do more if we had the same police resources being used to enforce marijuana prohibition. We iterated to everyone the inequalities of the criminal justice system playing out in our communities, and we pointed out that as a CBD state, Missouri needs protection from federal interference, which speaks deeply to many in the Show-Me State. And I could see that, despite its relatively small applications, our new CBD law has created a situation for our elected individuals that they suddenly must represent different interests than they have in the past.
Of course, as we all know, the real leadership on marijuana policy change happens at the base with the people. So I encourage you to write your Representatives at the federal and state levels to tell them you want to see a more responsible marijuana policy. I encourage you to write your local candidates following the instructions mentioned above to find out where they stand on marijuana policy. I encourage you to spread awareness to your friends and family about Show-Me Cannabis and our fight for justice. If you are able, I encourage you to support reform organizations such as Show-Me Cannabis with a financial contribution. And if you are a student, I encourage you to start a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Onward, fellow freedom fighters!