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Acting Regionally: SSDP Conferences from Binghamton to Santa Barbara

Each fall, Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s regional conferences bring students, alumni and community members in their respective areas together for knowledge sharing and community building through interactive workshops, educational discussions and networking.

We kicked off the fall season on October 6 at SUNY Binghamton in New York State. After welcoming remarks by former SUNY Binghamton SSDP Chapter Leader Grant Leow, I along with fellow SSDP staffer Hannah Procell led a cultural competency training session where we discussed racial bias in drug policy enforcement and the U.S. prison system and read some anecdotes of peoples’ first-hand experiences with being targeted by law enforcement. It’s important that incoming activists understand this and incorporate it into their advocacy.

The next session was a panel on harm reduction featuring Truth Pharm founder Alexis Pleus, SSDP alumnus and harm reduction counselor Garrett Reuscher and harm reduction psychotherapist Eddie Einbinder. The three experts explained the principles of harm reduction and the best ways to argue for it to prohibitionists, and also how to support a loved one struggling with use without compromising their autonomy.

Then SUNY Binghamton graduate student Kevin Revier presented “Stories from Jail: Harm Reduction Through an Abolitionist Framework,” which focused on the experiences of incarcerated people and the horrific treatment they face behind bars, the Prison Abolition movement and what anti-criminalization activism looks like beyond just drug-policy reform.

Amy Hildebrand, JJ Chamberlain and Leow followed with a frank discussion about the successes and failures of legal cannabis, how it helps some and hurt others who’ve been victims of cannabis criminalization, and capitalism’s difficult relationship with healing and justice.

Sheila Vakharia, policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of Academic Engagement, addressed the crucial role academic research plays in informing policy change. Procell returned to explain SSDP’s policy change efforts. She concluded with examples of what young people can do right now to get involved.

The event closed with a “Drug War Stories” open-mic session. Our regional conferences continued on October 13 at Kent State University in Kent, OH.

More SSDP Regional Conferences

• October 26-28 at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA

• November 3 at the University of Texas in Austin, TX

• November 10 in Vienna, Austria

• December 1-2 at the University of California at Santa Barbara

Visit ssdp.org for more information about our events and activities.

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