Students for Sensible Drug Policy Seek To Change Laws in the DMV

by VERNA GIBSON

Yesterday, D.C. Initiative Measure #71 legalized the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana in the Nation’s capital for those over 21. Maryland’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy, otherwise known as SSDP, came together to discuss the D.C. Initiative on Wednesday as well as the state of Maryland’s marijuana policy.

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Students for Sensible Drug Policy is a club at the University of Maryland that meets twice a month to discuss different aspects of U.S. drug policy. Past meetings have covered the War on Drugs especially dealing with race and incarceration, the use of psychedelics and planning for lobbying the state senate on its marijuana stance. The group says on their website they are not advocating drug use but instead want to take a critical look at the drug war.

Eric Mellinger, a sophomore civil engineering major who is also SSDP’s Treasurer, said he joined last year after attending a few meetings as a freshman. “I had read a lot of books on the War on Drugs and some of the effects that it had and I think it a huge issue in society now,” said Mellinger. “It definitely has an effect on a lot of racial minorities in the country as well as policy in general.”

The conversation this week covered the D.C. Initiative and what that meant for the future of D.C. as well as if people believe Maryland will be next in the legalization trend. SSDP members, led by President Olivia O’Keefe, a sophomore behavioral and community health major, explained exactly what Initiative 71 says.

The law allows people to grow six marijuana plants, to possess up to two ounces, the right to gift others up to an ounce and use or sell paraphernalia. O’Keefe also informed the group that the sale of weed was still illegal and smoking weed on public or federal land is still illegal in D.C.

The meeting centered on a discussion of the future of drug policy in D.C. and Maryland with the executive board answering questions posed about the future of drug policy and marijuana itself. 

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Grace Porter, freshman PR major, says she comes to the meetings because she is against the War on Drugs.

“It’s nice to be surrounded by people with a similar mindset and discuss some of the issues in society.”

Lisa Kaufman, a senior dietetics major, who stood out as the only person unsure about the legalization of marijuana said she comes to the meetings because she likes the discussions and the connections the group has. Kaufman said she likes how the club sometimes has meetings, or screens movies or speaks with drug experts depending on the day.

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