There is already a huge stigma against opponents of the drug war. Anyone who fights against the war on drugs is branded with stereotypes such as the hapless stoner who just wants to get high. This image can scare people away from our movement.
When I was a part of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (S.S.D.P.) at my school, mostly everyone in the student body supported us. I would say around 90 percent of the students I encountered had agreed the war on drugs needed to be done away with and activities such as enjoying marijuana should not be considered a crime. I will be brazen enough to surmise that most “20-somethings” in America hold similar ideas.
Yet, I believe a lot of young people are deterred from acting out against this 40 year old war. Many students loved what our chapter was doing, but the idea of being associated with a group that wanted radical reforms in drug laws scared them. The biggest issue that a lot of kids had with joining S.S.D.P. lied in terms of getting a job. “How would I ever put this on my resume?” was a question I often heard. Employers, they said, wouldn’t be quick to hire students with a past that included a group which stood for issues such as marijuana legalization. Friends found it amusing when I told them that I put my work with S.S.D.P. on my resume.
To me, that’s a shame. Even though most students doubt the war on drugs, they won’t speak up against it out of fear for being blacklisted. Unwillingness to speak out, from citizens of all ages, may be why reform of our harsh drug laws has arrived slowly since the days of Nixon.
Yet there’s hope. I can say for a fact that being involved with issues of drug reform hasn’t hurt my reputation at all. In fact, it has been a tremendous resume builder.
I remember when I went to my college’s job office to prepare for a summer internship. I brought my resume with me to look over what could be improved. Under the clubs portion of my resume, I put down S.S.D.P.
“What’s this you have under here?” the resume consultant asked.
“Students for Sensible Drug Policy. It’s a group that works to reform drug laws.” I added all the milestones I’d accomplished under the section, such as serving as the president, testifying for NH HB 492, and passing a Good Samaritan Policy on campus.
The consultant became curious about the Good Samaritan Policy. I told him about the heart of the policy, that if students on campus were in a party situation and overdose occurred, they could call for help and not get punished by the school.
“Wow,” he replied. “I recently had a nephew that passed on from an overdose. He was at a party where he drank too much and his friends didn’t call for help.”
I was stunned. I voiced my condolences and he expressed that our group made a significant change for the better. He even suggested that I prioritize S.S.D.P. on my resume.
There’s a popular quote attributed to children’s author Dr. Seuss that states to “be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” No one should be ashamed or afraid from doing what they feel is right. Working towards reforming drug policies touches more people than you might ever expect. Not only can you fight against the drug war and not be ashamed, you can also be proud of it.
Brian Rabadeau is an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance.