Students for Sensible Drug Policy is one of the newest registered student organizations to come to the University of Wyoming campus.
SSDP is a national student-led organization with 5,000 active members representing 300 campuses across the world and is dedicated to ending the War on Drugs.
Jaxon Porterfield founded UW’s chapter based on his lifelong interests in drug policy, he said.
“I found this organization that developed chapters at different universities through student leadership, so I reached out to them and got connected with the regional director who sort of walked me through the process of what SSDP was on the national scale and how to adapt it to the University of Wyoming specifically.” Porterfield said.
Porterfield recognized the need for this program after taking the class Drug War Geopolitics in the Americas.
“I had really never seen anything on campus about the domestic sides of the effects of drugs and drug abuse. I had those conversations with that professor and that sort of sparked my interest and made me realize there needs to be a space for those conversations.” Porterfield said.
It took him about a year to decide how he wanted to organize and implement SSDP’s goals across campus. Porterfield said the chapter is focusing on drug policy education, reform and activism.
Porterfield emphasized that the main hurdle facing SSDP at UW’s campus is education about different substances and their effects on individuals and communities.
“The primary thing that SSDP is focusing on right now is bringing those conversations to the table. I feel that a lot of students and faculty come in without a really solid grasp of what these substances are and the history of those substances and how they’ve been criminalized,” Porterfield said.
In its maiden year, SSDP focused on developing content for their Instagram with the goal of disseminating accurate drug information that comes from a UW source. In looking at SSDP’s Instagram, viewers can find infographics discussing various drugs, their effects and policies that have historically disproportionately affected marginalized communities.
Porterfield told the Boomerang about some of the things the group is focused on for the upcoming academic year.
“The biggest one and the one that I think will be most effective and most easily implemented is working on date rape prevention and getting materials and information on campus about the prevalence of date rape drugs,” Porterfield said.
Although this is a small component of a larger problem, Porterfield is hoping that open and honest discussions about drug use will be a step in the right direction towards addressing sexual assault on campus.
Additionally, SSDP is exploring what it calls a Good Samaritan policy. This policy would enable students to get help for someone who may be going through alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose without the fear of repercussions.
“If you call (for help) for your friend while they’re too drunk or they have an overdose, you aren’t going to face any sort of repercussions for those substances being around you just because you’re trying to get help for those individuals.” Porterfield said.
“I wanted to adopt that in the UW residences and pretty much anywhere we could,” he said.
Another thing Porterfield is focusing on for the second year of SSDP is a video series dealing with overdoses in Wyoming.
“I think a lot of people sort of push that to the margins and they’re like ‘no that doesn’t happen here’ so I wanted to bring some kind of education and reform through that by showing that it is an issue that we need to be talking about.” Porterfield said.
The final component of SSDP’s plan this year is geared towards activism across campus as well as the greater Laramie community. Porterfield is especially excited about these opportunities and how SSDP can work in conjunction with other activist groups such as the Laramie Human Rights Network.
“This has actually been really exciting with the push with the Black Lives Matter movement because we’re in an unprecedented time of activism which is super cool. People are ready and willing to go.” Porterfield said.
Porterfield said he’s planning on attending Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting to advocate for the dissolution of UWPD.
“I want to work with the Laramie Human Rights Network and work on those conversations around defunding the police because I think a lot of the exorbitant amount of money that does go to the police could be reallocated towards health care services.” Porterfield said.
Porterfield said one of the biggest problems facing health care services at UW and in Wyoming is the notion that they don’t have the money required to enact some of these bigger projects.
“We really do, it’s just not where it should be,” Porterfield said.
SSDP is also hoping to equip RAs with harm reduction training as well as the overdose reaction drug naloxone.
“The only people that have naloxone right now are some police stations and some hospitals, when those first responders are most of the time not those people. They’re the RAs that are living in those residential halls and having that (naloxone) with them would make it a more secure environment,” Porterfield said.
SSDP is facing unique challenges this upcoming semester in the wake of the novel coronavirus. As a relatively new RSO, gaining participation and involvement will look much different when done in a socially-distant way.
“I want to have meetings where we open with some information or history about drugs and substances and then talk with members of the group about what they want to do and where they feel like they would be most comfortable and most well equipped,” Porterfield said.
“We’re really going to focus this first semester on creating a strong community, making sure people know that the folks in this community are folks they can talk to even about things outside of the club and just sort of getting that foundation set in place so that next semester we can have some online events that hopefully have better turnout than if we didn’t have that foundation,” Porterfield said.
One idea Porterfield has for SSDP is hosting a psychedelic film festival through 7220 Entertainment.
“Each Friday, or two days of the week, play a psychedelic film for a month or so and then at the end of that, if at all possible, bring a speaker in about psychedelics and capping it off with that.” Porterfield said.
Porterfield noted that SSDP’s primary goals for the year are focused on making the group known across campus. He specifically mentioned the need to pass at least a few ASUW resolutions in support of different drug policies so that the university knows they’re active and pushing for change.
Students looking to get involved with SSDP can find more information through the groups official Instagram page or by contacting Porterfield directly at email@example.com.