Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)

December 9, 2011

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.

SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.

The Key Values of SSDP are:
Shared power and authority
Youth-controlled agenda
Collaboration and partnership
Constituent-specific strategies
Diversity and inclusion

SSDP’s Values Statement
SSDP neither condones nor condemns drug use, rather we respect the right of individuals to make decisions about their own health and well-being. We encourage honest conversation about the realities of the drug war. We promote youth civic engagement as a critical tool in reforming drug policy. SSDP respects the diverse experiences and identities of our constituents. We develop leaders who advocate for policy changes based on justice, liberty, compassion and reason.

SSDP’s Structure as a Grassroots Organization

SSDP is comprised of student chapters all across the country. Any student anywhere can start a chapter. While SSDP has a variety of national campaigns and actions that everyone can participate in, chapters are also encouraged to work on those issues that have the most traction in their own communities. Annually SSDPers convene for a national conference. There, students acquire essential activist knowledge and skills. Also, chapters elect students to serve on SSDP’s Board of Directors. This Board in turn selects and oversees SSDP’s executive director. The Executive director (Gary Johnson), is responsible for tending to both the day-to-day operations of the organization and SSDP’s long-term direction. An important duty of the executive director is to hire and manage staff. Currently, besides an executive director, SSDP has two associate directors, an International Liason, a webmaster and an office administrator. Ultimately, the SSDP staff exists to serve and represent SSDP’s chapters and activists.

Legally, SSDP consists of two separate, distinct entities – Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation and Students for Sensible Drug Policy Inc. The former, as a 501(c)3 organization, engages in education and outreach. Donations to SSDP Foundation are tax-deductible. SSDP Inc, as a 501(c)4 organization, engages in advocacy, or attempts to effect change to law and policy. Accordingly, donations to SSDP Inc are not tax-deductible [1].

The SSDP also serves to organize events on high school and college campuses for the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) [2]. LEAP was founded in 2002, and is made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out about the failures of our existing drug policies. LEAP believes that those policies have failed, and continue to fail, to effectively address the problems of drug abuse, especially the problems of juvenile drug use, the problems of addiction, and the problems of crime caused by the existence of a criminal black market in drugs [3]. LEAP is funded and partnered with a number of liberal / progressive organizations including George Soros’s [4] Open Society Institute [5].

Some of the more interesting people who serve on SSDP’s Advisory Council [6]:

Gary Johnson is the former Republican governor of the state of New Mexico (1995 to 2003) and is currently a Republican candidate for President of the United States [7]. Gov. Johnson is a well-known and much-respected longtime opponent of the War on Drugs.
In addition to serving on the board of SSDP, he also serves on the Students For Liberty’s advisory board [8].

Richard Glen Boire is the Co-Director and Legal Counsel for the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) [9] [10]. Besides being a writer, a social systems analyst and legal scholar. He specializes in dissident thinking and control theory. His dedication to examining the developing legal and cultural issues related to freedom of thought has led to a varied and unique career. In addition to authoring several books, Mr. Boire’s articles have appeared in a wide spectrum of magazines and journals, from mainstream and scholarly, to underground and aesthetic-focused. He has been a featured speaker at conferences both in the U.S. and internationally, and has provided interviews via print, radio, television, and RealVideo on the Internet. From 1993 to 1999, Mr. Boire was the editor of The Entheogen Law Reporter, a quarterly journal reporting and commenting on legal cases and legislation affecting users of shamanic inebriants.
Although Mr. Boire has some interesting credentials [11], it is the comment quoted by Ira Glasser, who served for 23 years as president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that should be of interest. (ACLU is a George Soros’s Open Society funded organization [12]). As you continue to read, you come to a link that will take the reader to TED [13]. TED (Technology, Entertainment Design [14]) which is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It was started in 1984, as a conference to bring together people from the three worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences, the TED Conference which is held in Long Beach and Palm Springs every spring, and the TEDGlobal conference which is held in Edinburgh Scotland every summer. TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize. TED has granted more than $10million to enlightened organizations such as the Acumen Fund [Partners in the Acumen Fund consists of a virtual who’s who of Progressive / Liberal Organizations including the “Fund Stewart”, Andre Soros Colombel & Eric Colombel ($5 million) and Work in Progress Fund of Tides Foundation ($100,000+) [15]], Environmental Defense ( Besides receiving money from the U.S. Interior Department and U.S. EPA it also receives funding from a number of Progressive / Liberal funding organizations [16]), One World Health [15] , and PATH [17] [18]. TED is owned by The Sapling Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation, a 501(c)3 organization under US tax code which was established in 1996 by magazine publishing entrepreneur Chris Anderson [19].

David Borden is the Executive Director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network [19]. He is a graduate of Princeton University (A.B. Astrophysical Science 1990) and New England Conservatory of Music (M.M. Jazz Composition). He has previously worked in computers, music, and as an instructor at the high school and college level. He founded DRCNet in 1993.

Graham Boyd is the founder and director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, a division of the ACLU’s national legal department (previously noted as a Soros funded organization). The Project conducts the only national litigation program addressing civil rights and civil liberties violations arising from the war on drugs. Its mission is to expose the costs of the “war on drugs” through litigation and public education activities, and to promote pragmatic drug policy reform through state and national coalitions. Mr. Boyd is currently litigating constitutional challenges concerning racial profiling, drug testing of welfare recipients, medical marijuana, and use of drug-sniffing dogs in schools. In March 2002, Mr. Boyd argued before the Supreme Court of the United States in a case concerning drug testing of high school students. In addition, Mr. Boyd has litigated a precedent setting case involving DEA targeting of rave promoters in New Orleans, an effort that has led to consultation with rave organizers in over a dozen states over the past year.

Jack Cole is the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He worked for the New Jersey State Police Department for 26 years. For twelve years he worked undercover narcotics where his investigations spanned the spectrum of possible cases, from street drug users and mid-level drug dealers in New Jersey to international “billion-dollar” drug trafficking organizations. Cole holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a Masters degree in Public Policy. Currently writing his dissertation for the Public Policy Ph.D. Program at the University of Massachusetts, his major focus is on the issues of race and gender bias, brutality and corruption in law enforcement. He is passionate in his belief that the drug war is steeped in racism, that it is needlessly destroying the lives of young people, and that it is corrupting our police.

Matthew M. Elrod is a former library cataloguer and director of his family’s business Special Libraries Cataloguing, Inc. In 1996, his interest in drug policy led him to the Drug Reform Coordination Network. Inspired and encouraged by the effective efforts of Mark Greer and the DRCNet’s Media Awareness Project, Matt founded the Canadian Media Awareness Project. In addition to maintaining the web sites of the Media Awareness Project and DrugSense, Matt provides internet services to a number of other drug policy reform organizations, most of which are listed at

Shawn Heller is former National Director and Co-Founder of SSDP. Before forming SSDP, Heller worked in the Clinton White House Office of Political Affairs, where he served as assistant to Linda Moore, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for Political Affairs. Shawn is a graduate of The George Washington University (B.A. Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice, 2000). Shawn is a member of the board of directors of the DanceSafe Foundation and the Flex Your Rights Foundation. He has provided testimony on drugs and discrimination for the American Bar Association, and is the 2002 High Times “Freedom Fighter of the Year.” He is also the recipient of SSDP’s 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rob Kampia is co-founder and executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. MPP is the largest membership-based organization in the nation that is dedicated to ending the war on marijuana users. Kampia has testified before the California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Washington state legislatures, as well as before the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a handful of other federal agencies. Kampia has appeared on dozens of national and local TV programs and has been quoted repeatedly in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and hundreds of other newspapers.

Doug McVay is a writer, researcher and webmaster with a great deal of experience in drug policy reform. McVay is the editor of Drug War Facts and maintains the websites for Drug War Facts and for Common Sense for Drug Policy. Doug has been active in marijuana law reform efforts since developing a college chapter of NORML at the University of Iowa. He went on to work with the Oregon Marijuana Initiative in the 1986 election cycle. Following that, Doug worked for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) until the beginning of 1990, when he became a co-founder of the Cannabis Action Network. He is also a court-qualified expert witness on the subjects of marijuana use, sales and cultivation, and has testified in both State and Federal courts in the US.

Terry Michael is executive director of the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism. He was a press spokesman for the lIlinois House Democrats from 1973-74; for the late Sen. Paul Simon during Simon’s first five years in the U.S. House; for the late Cong. Bob Matsui, from 1981-83; and for the Democratic National Committee from 1983-87. He ended his career as a political operative in 1988, serving as communications director for Simon’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was founder, in 1977, and first president of the Assn. of House Democratic Press Assistants.

Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. Prof. Nadelmann was born in New York City and received his BA, JD, and PhD from Harvard, and a Masters degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He then taught politics and public affairs at Princeton University from 1987 to 1994, where his speaking and writings on drug policy — in publications ranging from Science and Foreign Affairs to American Heritage and National Review attracted international attention. He also authored the book, Cops Across Borders, the first scholarly study of the internationalization of U.S. criminal law enforcement.

Marsha Rosenbaum is a medical sociologist and director of the San Francisco office of Drug Policy Alliance. She received her doctorate in sociology from the University of California at San Francisco in 1979. From 1977 to 1995 Rosenbaum was the principal investigator on ten grants funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, completing studies of women heroin addicts, methadone maintenance treatment and policy, MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine and drug use during pregnancy.

Clifford Thornton, Jr. is the founder and executive director of the Connecticut-based drug policy reform organization Efficacy. He is a retired African-American businessman who ran for Governor of Connecticut on the Green Party line in 2006. Mr. Thornton’s mother died of a heroin overdose when he was 18 years old. As a result of this loss, he wanted drug laws to be harsher. Now he believes that if heroin use had been legal, and supervised by doctors, his mother might have lived a relatively safe and healthy life. SSDP can book Mr. Thornton to speak on their campuses.

Adam Wolf is a Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project, a division of the ACLU’s national legal department (As previously noted, a Soros funded organization). Mr. Wolf has litigated in numerous federal and state courts, including in the United States Supreme Court. Some of his high-profile cases have addressed the following issues: the constitutionality of the federal law that denies student aid to people with a drug conviction, the application of the infamous 100:1 sentencing ratio for crack- and powder-cocaine offenses, the federal government’s issuing a subpoena for the medical records of medical-marijuana patients, and the right to possess injection drug equipment to decrease the spread of infectious disease. Prior to working for the ACLU, Mr. Wolf taught at the University of California-Los Angeles and represented labor unions with the firm Altshuler Berzon. Mr. Wolf is a graduate of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School. Upon graduating from law school, he served as a judicial law clerk for judges on the federal court of appeals and federal district court.

Kevin B. Zeese is the president of Common Sense for Drug Policy. Mr. Zeese has worked on a wide array of drug related issues since he graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1980. Kevin Zeese has written for newspapers and journals on a range of drug issues, including an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the Colombian drug war. He has also appeared on every major television network as a commentator. He served as a consultant to Walter Cronkite for the Discovery Channel special: The Drug Dilemma: War or Peace? He has spoken at nationally recognized legal seminars and testified before Congress on drug related issues. In April 2002, Mr. Zeese debated DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson at a conference hosted by Rice University’s James Baker Institute.

Funding for SSDP is provided by not only contributions, donations to SSDP Inc. but George Soros’s Open Society Institute.



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