Two advocacy organizations are coming together to decriminalize entheogens and continue fighting against the War on Drugs. Decriminalize Nature (DN) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) announced in a press release on January 27 that they are partnering up to target entheogen decriminalization and put an end to the War on Drugs by creating a Community Healing Alliance.
Both of these organizations have a longstanding history with drug advocacy, and this collaboration will no doubt strengthen the cause. As SSDP Board Member and also co-director of DN Michigan, Myc Williams believes that this partnership is essential to push progress forward. “A national alliance of these two organizations is a unique opportunity to tackle the harms of the drug war from all sides,” Williams said. “We are paving a path of unity that addresses both the injustices of current drug policy and provides accessible avenues for healing from the traumas that have occurred as a result.”
Many other people involved in this cause, such as SSDP Executive Director Jason Ortiz, are confident that this is the dawn of a new campaign. “We are uniting today to build the power needed to correct the profit driven framing being forced on us by corporations and their countless lobbyists,” said Ortiz. “This alliance will pair youth leaders with community practitioners to ensure that decriminalization and reparations are the priority for the drug policy movement as we end the disastrous and malicious war on drugs. Wherever they have a lobbyist, we will have an organized community ready to meet them.”
Additionally, many other DN and SSDP members of various roles provided hopeful statements about the Community Healing Alliance. One of the founding members of DN, Larry Norris, mentioned that DN and SSDP have worked together before in the past, but this official move to bind together will bolster support even more. Likewise, DN National Board Member Julie Barron shared her excitement to see what the two organizations will accomplish for people who are in need of support and healing.
Through many research studies, there is evidence that incarceration for drug possession or use does not improve public health and safety. A study conducted in January 2010, entitled “Treating Drug Abuse and Addiction in the Criminal Justice System: Improving Public Health and Safety,” suggested that convicting people of drug-related crimes simply spotlights the need to focus on other ways target the problem. “Punishment alone is a futile and ineffective response to drug abuse, failing as a public safety intervention for offenders whose criminal behavior is directly related to drug use,” the study concludes. “Addiction is a chronic brain disease with a strong genetic component that in most instances requires treatment. The increase in the number of drug-abusing offenders highlights the urgency to institute treatments for populations involved in the criminal justice system.” Furthermore, there are studies suggesting that prison therapy to treat drug addictions can be harmful, not helpful, to an individual’s recovery.
Both DN and SSDP have accomplished many things over the years. DN is newer to the advocacy scene, having been founded in Oakland in 2019, but its efforts have grown rapidly and there are chapters in over 50 cities in the U.S. Over these last few years, the organization has helped decriminalize entheogens in 14 cities. Its mission is to improve the lives of people interested in using entheogenic plants as a natural alternative to medical treatment, and also expand access by advocating for decriminalization “through political and community organizing, education and advocacy.”
Many chapters have been actively working on decriminalization efforts in their jurisdictions since last year. The Decriminalize Nature Boulder Chapter in Colorado has recently been working to change the language of a decriminalization effort aimed for the ballot next year. Decriminalize Nature Michigan spearheaded a signature gathering campaign last year.
SSDP on the other hand was founded in 1998, which now includes thousands of youth members and over 100 chapters throughout the U.S. The organization seeks to empower new generations to not only learn about and participate in politics, but to embolden their advocacy by fighting against causes that might harm other students or youth members in general.