Saturday, 5 March 2011

Leeds Metropolitan - Leading the way on Student Union Drug Policy

Elections for University Union Exec. and Policy Referendums are some of the most important dates in a student activist's calendar. It's your chance to influence how your Union is run, and the direction it takes on important policy issues.

I'm currently studying at Leeds Metropolitan University, trying to get Leeds Metropolitan SSDP up and running on the campus, and have had good success running joint events between Leeds Met and Leeds Uni. Unfortunately I've found the task of setting up a LMSU SSDP a difficult task; the union does not share LUU's strangely political environment. But I've not been deterred in trying to make an impact upon the union politics, having become chair of the Unions' Drugs Forum, and got involved with other areas of campaigning where I can find the time.

As the chair of the Drugs Forum I have a seat on the Union's Council and I seconded a policy motion to go to Union Referendum. The Controlled Substance Policy would mandate LMSU to campaign for the decriminalisation of drug use, oppose any cuts to drug related health services, and have an open and honest debate about drugs on campus. Taking on the role of the Yes campaigner for the motion, I spent several days travelling around the University to open up the discussion about drugs on campus, collecting over 200 e-mail addresses whilst I was at it.

I received a mixed reaction from people, as always, with some just not being able to accept that anything other than banning drugs could reduce harm to society. No matter of explaining that the most harm that comes from drugs is where they're acquired, how they're taken, and how we as a society treat them. I was also able to get an article published in the student paper, here is an altered copy for a national audience;

The results of the referendum;


83.27% (418 votes)


16.73% (84 votes)

So a victory for sensible drug policy! Except it isn't... The Union has rules stating that referendum motions need 700 votes cast to be recognised. Which seems fair, until you learn that not a SINGLE policy has passed due to this factor. Luckily for me because the result was in favour, and by a big margin, it shall be brought to the next Union Council Meeting where I shall have to convince the Union it should enact the policy motion despite not reaching the bench-mark.

I'll let you know how it goes. :)

To see how things went, please see the next part.