ASU students talk drug policy at the Capitol

While the Students for Sensible Drug Policy may be a smaller club at ASU with only 10 members, the group intends to make a big impact on ending the war on drugs through national lobbying.

The club, a student-led and nonprofit movement which was founded in spring of 2013, is very active on campus and focused on their ultimate goal of ending the war on drugs through sensible drug laws.

Sarah Saucedo, sociology junior and president of the ASU chapter of SSDP, said they have managed to host an SSDP Regional Conference on campus.

“It has been a pleasure to see the success of both our club and our club members in the last year,” Saucedo said. “We held an entire Drug Awareness Week in April and we’ve tabled on campus more than 15 times in the last year.”

Saucedo said she hopes the group gains exposure and creates a bigger member base both before and after she graduates from ASU.

“ASU SSDP is my pride and joy,” she said. “Going forward, I’m confident that our member base will grow and we will have competent, strong chapter leaders long after I graduate.”

The group will also be going to the capitol for the national Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s International Conference and Lobby Day, which will be held Sept. 26-29.

Saucedo said the trip to D.C. is not just for vacation, but the organization looks to make an impact there as well.

“On the trip to D.C., I hope to really solidify the relationships between chapter members and between our chapter and other chapters across the nation,” Saucedo said. “We also get to lobby members of Congress for our annual Lobby Day, a real-life experience that is unparalleled elsewhere.”

Seven students from the group, ranging in age from freshman to seniors, raised the required $600 per student to fly to the conference this year. Two local medical marijuana dispensaries sponsored the airfare for four of the students.

The club members used personal online crowd-funding web pages to fundraise for the trip, psychology sophomore Maya Tatum said.

“Networking was a big part of our fundraising,” she said.

During their weekend at the capitol, the students will speak to actual congresspeople and actually lobby for drug policy reform, but Tatum said she also hopes to meet with other SSDP chapters.

Many things looked to be accomplished on this trip, some not even dealing with the much anticipated Lobby Day.

“I want to talk to as many people as possible and toss around new ideas with SSDP-ers I haven’t met before to make what we do at ASU even better,” Tatum said.

After the Washington D.C. trip, Tatum said the group will look into starting a local Good Samaritan Policy, which would protect drug and alcohol users from criminal sanctions in the event of a medical overdose emergency.

The group is not even a year old, but the success of the group is starting to become noticeable around campus and is spreading elsewhere.

Pyschology sophomore Jessica Benzenhoefer said she also hopes to connect with other Arizona universities to open a conversation about drug use and build upon the sensible drug use movement.

“This year I plan to put my efforts into expanding outward by collaborating with the members of The University of Arizona to raise awareness for the organization throughout the U of A campus,” she said.

Saucedo said in the second year on campus, this group looks to really establish themselves here on campus.

“It’s time we had an open, honest discussion about drugs and drug use here at ASU,” Saucedo said.

Reach the reporter at William.A.Parker@asu.edu