NORMAN, Okla. – Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Students for a Democratic Society, two student organizations at the University of Oklahoma, have joined forces to initiate an open forum for discussion about failing U.S. drug policies and their negative effects on our society.


The organizations will host “Teach-In: The Failure of U.S. Drug Policy,” 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 20, 2010 on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus, Dale Hall, room 103.


Featured Speakers will include Susan Sharp, PhD., OU sociology and women’s studies professor, Norma Sapp, executive director of the Oklahoma state chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Gwendolyn Fields, district chief of staff and executive assistant to state Sen. Constance N. Johnson (D-Oklahoma County).


In addition, state Sen. Constance N. Johnson may make an appearance to bring the event to a close and call students and citizens to voice their opinions and take action in the direction of the change they would like to see. The senator’s appearance is still tentative as of Saturday, April 17, 2010.


The teach-in will conclude with time for questions and discussion.


“Access to accurate information is one of the most important requirements for a truly democratic society,” said Matthew Bruenig, president of the OU chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. “The teach-in was contrived as a way to help provide that and counteract some of the inaccurate information often given to citizens and students about U.S. drug policy.”


“One of our main goals with this forum is to get people talking about issues that have developed because of our country’s failed drug policies and to inspire our peers to actively seek the change they wish to see,” said Kaylee Burton, president of the OU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


State Sen. Johnson was sought after as a speaker for the forum particularly because of her work on state Senate Bill 2329 which would make persons convicted of non-violent and drug-related crimes eligible for the Non Violent Offender Alternative Placement program, Burton said.


In a February release Johnson noted that of the approximately 26,000 inmates now housed in DOC facilities, 4,759 are imprisoned for non-violent offenses not related to drugs. An additional 7,846 are imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses without any violent concurrent sentences. Johnson estimates that nearly 5,000 non-violent offenders would be eligible for alternative placement under her proposal. If adopted, Johnson’s plan represents a potential savings of $125 Million, which could then be used on other vital state programs that are crumbling under the current budget crisis.


“Incarceration disparity is just one of many issues related to drug prohibition,” Burton said. “Revocation and denial of student funding due to drug convictions is a very serious problem facing students today. Other issues range from health and safety issues, such as the need for “good samaritan” policies, to environmental concerns, personal freedom and right to privacy.”


The event is free and open to the public.