Despite the snow that still plagues campus and all who try to navigate it, students still came out in droves for the first tentative meeting of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Trevor Hosterman and Josh Merer are building the foundation for WCU’s newest, soon-to-be recognized organization. According to its literature, “SSDP is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the current war on drugs is failing our generation and our society.” Currently, there are over 200 chapters of SSDP working diligently to end “counter productive Drug War policies, particularly those that harm students and youth,” and their role in drug reform is more significant than one might originally suspect.
This past summer, The University of Rhode Island chapter of this organization worked with state legislatures to legalize medicinal marijuana for cancer patients, and other severely sick people, who were previously denied this type of medicineal option due to laws that negate the recommendations of personal doctors and medical associations.
Students for a Sensible Drug Policy has also initiated debates that “forced congress to scale back the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty, which has prevented nearly 200,000 students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid.”
But what kind of change can be brought to West Chester University? Hosterman and Merer have outlined several ideas.
“First off, we’d like to see to it that students who overdose receive medical amnesty,” says Trevor. The current school policy makes it possible for Public Safety officers to arrest any individual who calls to report an overdose if they are found to be in possession, or under the-influence, of illegal substances. This has proved to be a real concern for student safety, as it deters students from reporting a problem despite urgent, medical necessity; a poisoned student may require medical attention, but not call for it under fear that they will be subject to legal penalties.
In addition to changing medical amnesty policies, SSDP would like to follow The University of Rhode Island’s lead and commence discussions with Pennsylvanian legislatures that could help to improve conditions in our state, while simultaneously providing WCU students with real-life experience in the American political system.
Students in attendance were of a varried walk of life and social circle. In fact, when asked who has been affected or penalized by West Chester’s current drug policy, less than half the room raised their hand. Attendees voiced opinions that the government seems to be in a state of denial, turning the other cheek to the fact that, although the United States spends 50 billion dollars in tax-payer money on the drug war every year, drug use has remained constant. Moreover, West Chester is not entirely crime-free. “There are more important crimes taking place on campus than kids smoking pot,” states Merer.
Public Safety attempted to address the drug problem two years ago when they purchased Piper, a drug-sniffing dog.
Incidentally, seems concerned students will soon have a voice at West Chester University, which may provide some student-driven change. Since SSDP has not fully completed the paper-work required to be recognized by the University, students who wish to join SSDP must do so by joining the Facebook group “Students for a Sensible Drug Policy at West Chester University,” where they can keep track of all updates and developments.
Because Students for a Sensible Drug Policy will not be asking for student dues, it is unclear as of yet how the organization will receive funding. However, students who attended the meeting suggested offering some of their own earnings to the cause. “That’d be great,” said Hosterman, when one person pledged money to SSDP. He then took a moment to reflect on the support before humorously suggesting, “It’s not as if we wouldn’t be approached with caution if we held a bake sale.”
Jeff Adams is a fourth-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at JA634029@wcupa.edu.