An Interview with Heidi Trautmann, Volunteer for CSSDP

An Interview with Heidi Trautmann, Volunteer for CSSDP

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Tell us about how you got an interest in Canadian drug policy.

Heidi Trautmann: My sister introduced me to it. She was volunteering. She was on the board. She informed me about the job. Before I applied to the job, I did posters and pictures for her. She thought it would be cool if I worked for CSSDP.

So, I did! I was really lucky to get the job.

Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come along with the position?

Trautmann: One was work for the Support Don’t Punish event. That included videos from the Support Don’t Punish Facebook page and research found on their website. I did event posters such as Mapping the Mind with Mushrooms and the Support Don’t Punish event, and the t-shirt design. I created a drug infographic relating to certain drugs. I am continuing it.

Jacobsen: There are two major strategies. One is zero tolerance. The other is harm reduction. What method seems more reasonable to you?

Trautmann: Harm reduction because you cannot force somebody to give up. If someone is forced with the idea of drugs, they might feel hopeless. Drug use is not a legal issue. It is a health issue, which needs to be tackled in an appropriate way.

Obviously, we do not want people taking harmful drugs. They should not be punished with it. They should be helped to heal rather than surviving in jail.

Jacobsen: With regard to CSSDP, what is its core principle?

Trautmann: It is to spread information about drugs and drug use rather than promote drug use. The purpose of CSSDP is to spread information for individuals without forcing ideals on people rather than what is humane.

Jacobsen: With respect to some of the most vulnerable populations, if we take the homeless, the addicted, and children, and if we take some of the negative impacts seen with them through indirect harms, any recommendations for reduction of harms to those populations?

Trautmann: Volunteering is a good way to reduce harm. People in a higher class than others, more money and privilege, then these individuals could assist in spreading knowledge.

Jacobsen: Where do you hope CSSDP goes into the future – getting more funding, more people, more skill sets, and so on?

Trautmann: I hope, in Canada, if people hear about CSSDP, they won’t have to ask about it. It should be something known to people. People should have more knowledge on drugs and harm reduction.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Heidi.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Voices: Nick Cristiano on the ‘Grey Area,’ Executive Responsibilities and Sensible Drug Policy

Voices: Nick Cristiano on the ‘Grey Area,’ Executive Responsibilities and Sensible Drug Policy

How did you become interested in drug policy in Canada?

I majored in sociology in school, always having been interested in deviance, I became very interested in drug use. My reason for being interested was seeing it. Also, it was a grey area; it was not clearly wrong. Other crimes seemed less grey to me. I was interested in studying drug use because I found that the laws and stigmas arbitrary.

Murder is clearly wrong. Drug use, you need to know the climate to know why it’s deviant. In my masters, I continued research on drug use. I made a commitment to this path. I am happy. I went further than I originally thought. I became acquainted with both the academic research as well as the stuff happening on the ground. That’s how I became involved with CSSDP. I wanted to move away from studying drug use. I wanted to become involved with an organization where I could build contacts and fight for things important to me.

What tasks and responsibilities come with being an executive board member?

My position on the executive board is a personnel liaison; essentially, I am the human resources person. I make sure everyone is happy and in pursuit of something interesting to them. We want people to tap into their passions.

You want to love what you’re doing for the organization. Otherwise, you’re not going to do it if you don’t enjoy it. As part of the executive board, I am a vote for most major decisions regarding the organization.

What do you consider the core principle of CSSDP?

The promotion of sensible drug policy is the core principle here. We want to promote sensible drug policy in communities across Canada. We want to raise awareness and equip people with the resources necessary as activists to speak out against irrational drug policies, mobilize and enact change.

By ‘sensible drug policy,’ we mean policy that is not harmful. By harmful, we refer to prohibition where drugs are forced into an illegal market with unregulated quality. Many problems come with prohibition, which regulation and decriminalization would solve or minimize.

Where do you hope CSSDP goes into the future?

I hope we continue to expand our network. We have a strong presence in Ontario and Quebec. I would love for CSSDP to move into remote communities. Remote communities are important because, despite drug problems existing there, they lack resources for minimizing the potential for drug-related harm, e.g. addiction counseling, harm reduction resources, etc. Therefore, their experience with drug policy is unique and important. They are included in discussions about improving drug policies.  

If we have a strong presence across Canada, a big national network, we can work together towards the improvement of drug policy. With the Liberal proposal for legalization, I hope CSSDP will be involved in bringing the youth voice to the decision-making processes.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Board member

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Find out more.

Voices: Andras Lenart on Representing CSSDP Locally and Internationally

Voices: Andras Lenart on Representing CSSDP Locally and Internationally

In brief, how did you get involved with Canadian drug policy?

My interest in drug policy stemmed from experiences volunteering at a shelter, where I met many individuals struggling with substance use. Following this, I became interested in the policies surrounding these issues. I saw things could be done to improve policies and the way people were treated. So, I joined CSSDP to collaborate with others on this, and other related issues.

I joined the McGill chapter last September. Andrew and Nancy, two of the McGill chapter members, were starting the McGill chapter and I became involved with it. Then, in December of 2015, I joined the board of directors for the national organization.

What tasks and responsibilities come with being on the board of directors ?

In addition to serving on the board of directors, I am the international representative for the organization. I [communicate with other youth drug policy organizations around the world, such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Together, we are planning an NGO training with different drug policy organizations, to take place in Thailand. We would acquire training in drug policy related issues and fundraising strategies.

I am also the chair of the conference planning committee. CSSDP is planning a 2017 conference in May in Montreal, so I am attempting to organize the logistics with some other volunteers and board members of CSSDP. The project is in the early stages and will develop with more work in the future. We need to find speakers and a location, and then plan the logistics for people coming from the United States and elsewhere. We’ll need to advertise the event and get local press for it.

Finally, as a CSSDP board member, I have been a representative of CSSDP at the SSDP conference. I was also a representative for CSSDP for a consultation held by the Canadian government through the Centre on Substance Use and Addiction too. The Canadian Government was attempting to inform Canadian drug policies. In general, my role in CSSDP is to provide representation for the organization itself. I have to find opportunities and guide the future acts of the organization.

What do you consider the core principle of CSSDP?

The unique aspect of CSSDP [in contrast to other drug policy organizations] is that most of us are students and we are directly representing the voice of youth. Most drug policy organizations do not have youth as the focus.

Where do you hope CSSDP goes into the future?

There are chapters in universities across Canada. I hope for the organization to spread further and have representation throughout Canada in high schools as well. That is, to have more influence and opportunity in terms of student politics and drug policy, even at a local institutional level.
Here at McGill, we are hoping to have the student body or the student society provide drug-checking services. These harm reduction measures are not on the national or regional level, but it would make a considerable difference in the lives of students attending McGill and provide further impetus for change in other areas of the country.

 

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Voices: Heather D’Alessio on Past Experiences and the Future of Drug Policy

Voices: Heather D’Alessio on Past Experiences and the Future of Drug Policy

In brief, how did you get interested in being involved in drug policy in Canada?

My interest in drug policy started out as a fascination with drugs when I was in high school. I was really interested in all aspects of drugs: their medicinal value, their historical significance, their cultural impact. I’ve always felt they played a large role in the human experience, having been a large influence in the lives of many of my favourite artists, musicians, authors, and even scientists and entrepreneurs. Couple that fascination with my own mental health hurdles, and add the reckless abandon of adolescence, and long story short, I was hospitalized for what the doctors called a drug-induced psychosis (frankly, I don’t think it was induced by the drugs as much as the stresses of becoming an adult, my reluctance to act with any sense of personal responsibility, and the resulting existential crisis that propelled me into ‘adulthood’).

In hospital, I’d plenty of time to reflect on my situation. It was a really difficult time, and all I could really think about was how bad I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through what I had experienced. So I began to evaluate the policies that were in place to supposedly protect our youth. Considering so many punitive, prohibitive drug laws are in place on the very basis of protecting children, I was pretty upset about how much they failed to protect me, a vulnerable young person living in a border-town with a heavy flow of illicit drugs being smuggled in and out along the St. Lawrence River. Upon further introspection, I began to see how much of a role drugs played in my own life, and the lives of those around me. From there, my interest in drug policy just took off.

How much knowledge did you have beforehand about medical and psychological effects of drugs?

Most of the knowledge I’d obtained prior to joining the board was more or less anecdotal, coming from my own experiences. Some of the earliest advice I remember my grandma teaching me was not to pick up dirty needles on the street. My first boyfriend (if even, we were only in elementary) had not only lost his brother to an overdose, but found his body. It messed him up for a long time. I’ve had family members struggle with addictions to (legal) prescription opiates, and I’ve seen my uncle use cannabis (an ‘illicit’ substance) to aid in his recovery from an aggressive form of brain cancer. I also struggled with drug misuse in high school. I had friends who were more than willing to share, and many a time I was that ‘generous’ friend. I’ve spent a lot of time lamenting poor decisions I’ve made in high school but frankly I didn’t really know any better and it taught me a lot. I’d always been motivated about trying to educate myself, but being young and naïve at the time I may not have been quite as keen about verifying my sources and statistics as I am now. Especially now that I’m representing the organization, I’m very particular about where I obtain my information from and what sorts of statistics I used to inform my opinions.

How did you get involved in CSSDP?

Out of my perpetual curiosity with drugs I’d found CSSDP on Facebook sometime during my high school years, but it wasn’t until I started post-secondary that I contacted the Outreach Coordinator about starting up a chapter at my school, applied to represent them at some international conferences, and ultimately ended up running for the board. Needless to say it was a match made in socio-political activist heaven.

What do you consider the core principle of CSSDP?

In the most concise terms, I think the core principle of CSSDP is about supplementing evidence and knowledge in the place of stigma and misinformation to create a humanistic approach to drug policy. What we’re really advocating for here is human rights and public health, which you’d think would be at the center of any effective drug policy (spoiler alert: the current policies aren’t effective). Unfortunately there’s a lot of external interest, political and economic, that are corrupting the majority of policies relating to drugs (in my opinion anyway). It’s created a largely misguided and misinformed public perception of drugs and drug use. Removing the stigma is a key factor in addressing these issues. Social taboos make it a sensitive topic but that only causes the problems to fester.

Where do you hope CSSDP goes into the future?

In the far future I hope to have eliminated the need for CSSDP by helping to establish effective and sensible drug policies in Canada. Realistically though, there’s a constantly changing landscape of drugs so I don’t know if that will happen, especially on an international level. Different people using different substances in different settings creates this hugely elaborate web of social, political, and economic issues and it’s quite nuanced. In the immediate future I just hope to see more interest in CSSDP, because where it stands it seems to be a relatively niche interest. My only friends who are interested in these issues are in CSSDP, but all of my friends do drugs in some capacity. I hope to see more people make the connection as to how these policies are effecting them and why they should care.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.