SSDP sets the bar high

Kyle Maddy, former president of SSDP shows off his organizations mention in the August edition of High Times.

Kyle Maddy, former president of SSDP shows off his organization’s mention in the August edition of High Times.

Flip past the Toker Poker page and the centerfold of an enormous white rhino bud. Stop – but only briefly – at the photos of a scantily clad Miss October taking a hit from a mushroom pipe. Feel free to jot down some notes on the new strains coming to the 2009 Cannabis Cup, but not too detailed, because page 70 is your ultimate destination. There, along with nine other colleges and universities, Missouri Southern takes its place in the hallowed pages of America’s most infamous marijuana magazine: High Times.

Wait – Missouri Southern in High Times? Don’t worry about your stash being laced, you’ve read that right. Missouri Southern appears in the Honor Roll section of October’s High Times issue as one of the top ten schools for students “seeking both a higher education and a chance to get involved in ending the war on drugs.” But what sense can be made of this?

Kyle Maddy, president of Missouri Southern’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter, until this semester, said the inclusion was based on drug reform productivity in the area. Even Maddy never thought MSSU or Joplin would be mentioned in the magazine for anything positive.

“God no, no man,” he said last week. “That’s what’s really cool.

The 22-year-old Maddy and the organization have been active on campus for more than years. Generally 10 to 15 students attend the meetings every Monday night at 6 p.m. in the Spiva library. He cited a good samaritan policy passed last semester as one of the chapter’s big victories, which allows students to seek medical help for friends without having to fear stiff consequences if drugs or alcohol are involved.

One of the next big issues Maddy wants to tackle is the penalty for marijuana possession compared to alcohol possession on campus; he wants to make them equal.

“Currently if you possess any type of drug, you have 48 hours to leave your dorm,” Maddy said. “Regardless of where you’re from, how are you going to find a place within 48 hours?”

As an organization, SSDP looks at drugs as a health issue instead of a criminal issue, according to Maddy.

“Whether you’re addicted to alcohol or marijuana, we tend to look at that as a health issue,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you’re a criminal. Incarceration doesn’t help anyone. People that have drug problems and are sent to prison, one out of ten receive treatment for their problem while they’re in prison.”

Even more surprising than Missouri Southern becoming a “fledgling mecca” for pot culture is that this isn’t the first High Times shout-out the area has received. Maddy’s older brother, Kelly, was featured in the magazine a few months ago as a Freedom Fighter of the Month for his involvement with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Joplin. Specifically, Kelly has spearheaded the effort to get a decriminalization measure on the November ballot to reduce marijuana offenses to an administrative offense in Joplin. The brothers, and many others, went door-to-door collecting signatures from voters.

The movement appears dead for now, as the Maddy’s fell short of the required signatures by 531 signatures. So who provided the biggest opposition?

“I’d say mainly Republicans,” Kyle said with a big laugh. “I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, but it seems when I was going door-to-door I’d see a freaking McCain sign in the yard and I just knew it was going to be a bad deal.”

It doesn’t sound like the brothers have been defeated, however.

“All we want is to bring this to a general discussion,” Kyle said. “We’re not saying legalize it, we just want to toss out some ideas. Let’s put this on the table.”

“I’m not some idiot stoner that just sits around and smokes weed,” he added. “I’m a college student. I have a job. We’re productive people, we just want to change the policies and make them more productive.”


But what is Joplin – this town only 45 minutes away from a dry county in Arkansas, just 100 miles away from Branson, deep in the heart of McCain country – doing in High Times?

For a different perspective on the issue, I decided to visit Joplin’s police chief, Lane Roberts. Walking up the front steps and into the vaulted entrance of the police station clutching the latest edition of High Times – the one with the double kush on the cover – could be seen by others as one of two things: stupid, or an arrogant, last-minute plot to elicit contempt.

What would they think of this man, obviously just out of bed and unkempt, strolling into ground zero of “law and order and justice for all” with his magazine advertising fake penises to pass drug screenings?

I sit unnoticed until Roberts greets me in the waiting area. Once inside his office, he strikes me as a fair and balanced chief. He answers questions carefully, and right down the middle.

He’s been in law enforcement for nearly 38 years, with some of that time spent in the Pacific Northwest. I ask him about the failed effort to get decriminalization on the ballot.

“I’m not offering my opinion on whether it is a good idea or it is a bad idea because I don’t want people to have some preconceived notion about how I would respond to the law one way or another,” he said. “The Pacific Northwest has had decriminalized marijuana for many years and the scheme of things didn’t affect us a great deal. It is still illegal. It’s the criminal penalty that changes, but because it’s still illegal it’s still a law that we had to enforce.”

“This is a very conservative area,” he added,” and it doesn’t seem to be very tolerant of anything that encroaches on the illegality of substance abuse and I understand that. Whether I agree or not is not the point.

The point is it’s kind of a mindset of rural America not to be very tolerant of it.”

At the age of 19, Roberts smoked marijuana in the Philippines. He was in the military.

“The fact is that I’m a product of the 50s and 60s when some of these things became more socially acceptable,” he said.

Roberts now says he regrets the experience, and there would be no “last dance with Mary Jane” if he could do it over again.

“I would not do it again, nor would I advocate other people do it because it’s still illegal.”

I ask Roberts if he and his force are destined to be the bad guys in this debate, at least in the eyes of decriminalization supporters.

“I’m not in the business of judging people,” he said. “If you engage in criminal conduct I will record it. I will arrest you. I’ll let somebody else judge your conduct. If you treat people with dignity and respect, regardless of the circumstance, I don’t think we necessarily become the bad guys. Could we potentially? Sure. When I started law enforcement in ’71 you weren’t really considered a police officer until you had been called a pig for the hundredth time. But that was a different time.”

Producing the October High Times issue from my lap, I open it up to page 70 and lay it on his desk. He seems to be familiar with the publication. Page 71 features an “EZ GRO Mushroom Kit” to produce your own psilocybin fungus at home, courtesy of the Homestead Book Company, ironically in Washington.

As Roberts speaks, I notice his eyes darting back to the mushroom page numerous times, probably in mild bewilderment. Surely this man did not expect to have a toll-free phone number to order illicit drugs on his desk this Friday morning.

I give him credit. The guy strikes me as pretty open and intelligent.

Concerning the Maddy brothers and their efforts in Joplin, Roberts said they’re going about it the right way.

“I have always been an advocate of people constructively trying to change the law as opposed to defy it,” he said.

“They are approaching this, at least in terms of the political activity, the way our system was meant to work. They think the law is incorrect, they want to change it and they have set out to change it. If the voting public agrees with them, then I will enforce the resulting law, just as I do the existing law.”

Maddy is taking the fall semester off to concentrate on a new job, but he’ll be back in the spring and plans to jump into the SSDP mix again.

“I’m not pro weed, I’m not pro anything,” he says. “The war on drugs is bullshit. Our policies just suck.”