Meet the students fighting against Newcastle’s zero drugs policy

Happy 4/20

A group of legends are campaigning against Newcastle’s zero tolerance policy.  

Zoe Carre, the head representative of the Newcastle SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy), spoke to us about her opinions on Newcastle’s current policy.

She told us: “The current zero tolerance policy does not achieve its aims.”

“We believe that criminalisation of possession is not an effective deterrent to drug use.

SSDP are even in talks with uni big wigs. Zoe told us: “We are currently discussing our concerns with the current policy and proposing an alternative policy with the Student Union and Paul Bandeen, Newcastle University’s Housing Manager.”

“We will be submitting a motion proposal at Newcastle University’s Student Council meeting on the 5th May to seek the Student Union’s formal support for our campaign.”

Zoe and the team launched the campaign after seeing students turfed out by the uni for being caught with drugs. She said: “I witnessed students with substance misuse issues being evicted from accommodation and the incredibly damaging effect it had on them and their studies.”

“The policy further marginalised such students, and consequently, discouraged them from accessing health services. If anything, the effects of the zero tolerance policy were to aggravate drug-related misconduct.”

Some students have spoken out how the zero tolerance have ruined their time at uni. One said: “A new policy could have prevented the stress I and others have suffered.”

Another said: “Making a student homeless for their first drug offence does not limit the potential to cause harm, rather, it could facilitate it.”

SSDP supports evidence-based drug policies. “Based on the results from our Student Drug Survey at Newcastle University in 2014-15, 39% of students said they were not aware of the University’s policy surrounding drug use, 63% of students said the legal status of drugs has not affected decisions surrounding drug use and 60% of students said current drug laws do not deter their own drug use.

“Decriminalisation of possession would allow drug users to be treated as patients, rather than criminals – it would finally allow drug use to be treated as a health issue.”

SSDP Newcastle has drafted our own drug policy instead.

– An overarching premise of support and education, in lieu of exclusionary punishment
– A two-tier eviction system, which introduces an intervention following misconduct and sufficient notice of the policy to students before eviction;
– A review of the current grounds for immediate entry, based on allegations or suspicion of illegal drug use or supply
– Medical amnesty from disciplinary action or eviction for students contacting emergency services for drug-related incidents;
– Education addressing all harmful substances, including illegal drugs and legal drugs (alcohol, tobacco, nitrous oxide, inhalants and novel psychoactive substances).

Have your say: if you agree with Zoe or want to get involved, sign the petition and like the Facebook page.