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Millions of disenchanted youths from all over the globe are leading the charge in the battle to reform misapplied Draconian drug policies that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars and an unfathomable number of jobs, homes and families. That the miserable failure of Nixon-era political posturing known as the “War on Drugs” remains nearly unchanged since its inception has only further ignited today’s youth movement to seek meaningful change and start the conversation on how to create national and global cannabis policy reform that no longer criminalizes responsible adults for using marijuana.

This November will bring numerous ballot initiatives to the forefront of America’s voters to determine the course of the medical and recreational marijuana legalization movement and pro-cannabis organizations like NORML and ENCOD – along with scores of progressive youths – are sensing the urgency of getting voters onboard while they still have time.

One such organization shepherding the grassroots drug policy reform movement is called Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). Founded in 1998, SSDP is the only student-led international movement focused on ending the failed war on drugs. With thousands of members spanning hundreds of campuses all over the world, SSDP is one of the largest and most influential authorities raising red flags.

This weekend (April 15-17th, 2016), more than 500 students and allies from over 16 countries will convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to end the abysmal failure known as the “War on Drugs”. Afterwards, buses will take students and supporters to demonstrate at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York City where world leaders will convene to discuss current international drug policies.

ssdp4Photo from Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

To find out what SSDP and its allies plan to focus on during this weekend’s gathering, I spoke with Sarah Merrigan – a political science major at the University of Nebraska Omaha and chapter founder and member of the student board of directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy:

Sarah, what is the role of young people today in shaping national and global cannabis policies, and why is it important for them to get involved right now?

I think particularly with cannabis reform and with drug policy as a whole, too often policies are implemented and justified in the name of young people. We’re tokenized, but we’re not welcome to come to the table to speak up and make our minds and make our voices heard when these policies are supposed to be protecting us.

It’s important for us to actually be involved and have a seat at the table because if they’re going to be affecting us… then we should be allowed to speak about what we think the best practices are and the future that we want to see because we’re the ones who are going to be around to watch this play out and we’re the ones who are directly impacted by this and are going to be around to see it the longest.

Sarah, along with millions of other marginalized youths, are tired of playing victim to oppressive drug laws that are aimed not to educate, but to incarcerate people for using marijuana and other drugs. Her and SSDPs message is clear- end the war on drugs and create meaningful change by bringing young people together to develop our future. In the “land of the free” where a minor possession charge can easily derail one’s chances at going to college or landing a decent-paying job, it’s no wonder that today’s youths are speaking out and speaking loudly to get their voices heard.

 

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