University of Colorado senior Phil Siebler, co-president of the CU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is one of the organizers of a Saturday conference discussing the legalization of marijuana. “It’s a serious discussion on drug policies and we want to get the community involved.”

If you go

What: Students for Sensible Drug Policy regional conference

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: University of Colorado, Benson Earth Sciences Building, Room 180

Cost: $10 for students and $20 non-students

The University of Colorado chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy — or SSDP — is hosting a conference Saturday that will address strategies for legalizing marijuana through a state ballot measure in 2012.

SSDP is one of CU’s newest student groups and is looking to expand awareness on campus through the conference, which will include speakers and panels discussing marijuana legislation and drug policies.

“The conference is a place to get all the chapters in the state together and to get students involved in the discussion,” said CU senior Phil Siebler, SSDP co-president. “It’s a serious discussion on drug policies and we want to get the community involved.”

Only days after the mid-term elections, local and national advocates will come together at CU and begin laying out strategies to achieve what California’s Proposition 19 could not.

Colorado activists wasted no time analyzing the failed legislation to regulate, tax and control marijuana, in an attempt to learn and correct mistakes made in California.

“The focus of SSDP is not marijuana, it’s on drug policies in general, but for this conference that’s really the most relevant topic and that’s what the speakers will be focused on,” said Christopher Pezza, University of Northern Colorado junior and state coordinator for SSDP.

University spokesman Bronson Hilliard said these are exactly the kinds of discussions that should be happening on a college campus. But while the campus encourages debate among students, it still doesn’t support the use of any illegal substance on or off campus.

“For us, it’s a sensible policy,” Hilliard said. “It allows us to create a learning environment where the rights of students are respected and a safe environment for students to learn and live in.”

Rick Doblin, founder of Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies — or MAPS — which is co-sponsoring the event, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Aaron Houston, executive director of SSDP, Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, and Steve Fox, director of state campaigns at Marijuana Policy Project.

SSDP is an international organization fighting the war on drugs through students, usually on college campuses, said Jonathan Perri, SSDP associate director. The CU chapter began last year but this fall the group is working toward growth and awareness on campus.

During his time as a resident adviser at CU, Siebler said he saw first-hand the damage that can come from the strict repercussions of non-violent, drug-related offenses.

“I saw students losing scholarships and getting in big trouble for these minor offenses,” Siebler said. “People who got caught with something were getting expelled by laws that were put in place to protect them.”

The group currently has about 10 members and is hoping Saturday’s event will help pique students’ interests.

Cameron Murdock, co-president of SSDP at CU, said despite other similar groups on campus like NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — he is confident that there is a place for SSDP.

“Our organization is about the public health aspects of drug policies and the issues surrounding drug prohibition,” Murdock said. “We’re a little different, because we do not condemn nor advocate the use of drugs. We are focused on ending the war on drugs through policy and regulation.”

Murdock said the chapter is planning several more events over the next year, including some film screenings and teaming up with other student groups for entertainment events.

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