New student group educates students about drug policy

Sammy Caiola

A student group devoted to drug policy reform – specifically regarding marijuana – has resurfaced after disbanding in 2009. This time, it has a high-profile faculty adviser: Mark Sheldon, Weinberg’s Assistant Dean for Academic Integrity and Advising.

“I agreed to be their advisor because the group’s president (Frances Fu) convinced me that the focus of the group would be on reforming drug policy in the United States,” he said. “This is an idea I have supported for a long time.”

Nine students gathered in Kresge Hall Saturday at the first general meeting of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which is focused on educating the student body about drug policies in the United States, specifically policies regarding marijuana.

“People have very strong opinions about the war on drugs without really knowing much about it,” said Frances Fu, the new SSDP president. “When they think about legalizing marijuana, they think it’s just a bunch of potheads. We just want to educate people and make them take the issue more seriously.”

NU is one among hundreds of campuses with a chapter of the national SSDP, a student-run network based in Washington, D.C. This is the second incarnation of NU’s chapter, which existed from 2007 to 2009 but disappeared when its founders graduated, Fu said.

Fu, a SESP freshman, started reorganizing SSDP in early November. The group gained temporary, or T-status recognition, from the Associated Student Government just before spring break.

Sheldon is a fellow in Hobart House, where Fu lives. He said he checks in with her frequently to make sure the group is staying true to its goals.

He said he is not a marijuana user, but he believes it should be legalized.

“Evidence suggests that it has medical benefits, and it also seems that the consequences are worse with it being illegal.”

At the first meeting, members of SSDP’s executive board presented a slideshow about the United States’ “war on drugs,” and why they feel it should be reformed. They spoke about the number of prisoners who are nonviolent drug users and how that affects families, women, minorities and the economy. Fu said she supports the legalization of marijuana.

Since its second founding in November, the group has given a fireside called “Women and Weed” at Hobart House and hosted a screening of “A Norml Life,” a documentary about medical marijuana. Last Friday, they sold donuts outside the Kellogg School of Management to raise money for next Saturday’s screening of “Play Safe,” a film about casual drug use and the importance of education.

Daniel Zhou, a Weinberg freshman and attendee at Saturday’s meeting, said he went because he wanted to learn more about legalization efforts.

“It’s really unjust that some people’s lives are ruined for possession, even if they’re not necessarily using,” he said. “(Drug use) is too overblown in the media and in our culture.”

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