When senior Harrison Rosenfeld and junior Casey Hofford took Santiago Guerra’s class The Drug War, they both became more aware of the broken justice system that exists in the United States as a result of the decades-long War on Drugs.
The subject material in the class laid bare some of the most disturbing issues about mass incarceration and drug policy in the United States. Rosenfeld said that after the class, Guerra challenged his students to take their knowledge from the block and translate it into action.
Guerra pointed out that many of his students felt disillusionment with the American justice system as it pertained to the War on Drugs, but he still had never heard of a club on campus that was working on changing anything. “He was sort of challenging us in a way,” said Rosenfeld.
Rosenfeld, along with Hofford and junior Teddy Corwin, have answered Guerra’s call and started a Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) chapter at Colorado College. Guerra now serves as the faculty sponsor for the club. SSDP is a national and international organization working to fight back against a counter-productive and costly War on Drugs.
Tyler Williams, the SSDP Outreach Coordinator for the Heartland, Midwest, and Mountain regions, said that SSDP’s main purpose is to use activism against drug prohibition to engage students in the political process. The club has secured funding from CCSGA and aims to affect drug perception and policy both on and off campus.
“Using drugs safely and making sure people are informed is what’s really important,” said Hofford.
While the club is in its fledgling state and has not sponsored any on-campus activities as of yet, plans are in the works.
One major idea for on-campus outreach is a drug-testing kit distribution program for students in the weeks leading up to May’s on-campus music festival, Llamapalooza. Hofford said that drug-testing kits are currently cost-prohibitive for many students and are hard to come by. Providing drug-testing kits for students would fall in line with SSDP’s goal of helping students use drugs safely and responsibly. While SSDP is interested in helping students safely use drugs, Rosenfeld and Hofford stressed that SSDP is not a ‘drug club.’ “It’s not a place to come and we turn off the lights and do drugs,” said Rosenfeld.
Williams, who was on campus on Tuesday, Feb. 16 for a meeting with CC’s SSDP leadership, spoke highly of a new peer-to-peer education program that is being created by the national SSDP office. The program will feature an online training module that students can take in order to become certified peer educators. Williams said that the program provides students with the chance to disseminate science-based drug information to their peers. In the future, CC students will be able to enroll in the program.
While keeping CC students safe is a primary concern for the organization, there are also opportunities to look beyond the confines of CC.
Rosenfeld sees a disconnect between the world of drugs at CC and the larger realities of the War on Drugs.
“As we smoke pot and we get caught and get a slap on the hand for smoking pot in the dorms, there’s people in New York or any city really across the country that get caught smoking pot and they’re in jail for years. It’s not smart, it’s not sustainable,” he said.
SSDP aims to create a safer drug climate in the larger Colorado Springs community as well. Possible projects that SSDP would undertake in the community include a needle exchange program, something that does not currently exist in Colorado Springs. SSDP also aims to collaborate with the CC Prison Project in order to tackle issues of mass incarcerations both in Colorado Springs and in the state of Colorado.
Overall, Hofford said that SSDP is about “providing real-world drug education, not just alcohol.edu. It’s about providing a forum for students to ask questions as well as an established group on campus to provide knowledge to students, who will regardless be using drugs.” He continued, “The club is in the context of harm-reduction. What can we do to create a safe environment for everybody, both users and non-users?”