Cannabis on Campus?

Cannabis on Campus?
Posted by CN Staff on September 29, 2005 at 08:37:01 PT
By Maggie Wolcott
Source: Truman Index 
Missouri -- One student's goal on campus is to shatter the myths he said have been created around the use of marijuana. Junior Josh Kappel is in the process of organizing a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws chapter on campus. Kappel said NORML is a political organization that works to change policies surrounding marijuana use. He said a lot of countries in Europe are decriminalizing marijuana and trying to separate marijuana from hard-core drug use.
"You can't just jump for legalization," Kappel said. "You have to take steps towards it."Kappel said he hopes one day people will look at marijuana prohibition like they do at alcohol prohibition. "If you research into the history behind the prohibition of marijuana in America, you can see how the government completely lied to the public about what it does, just to try to deter people from using it," Kappel said.Through NORML, Kappel said he wants to educate people about marijuana and help people find out the truth. He said the National Institution of Drug Abuse controls a lot of the research on marijuana, and it does not give other researchers permits to grow or test marijuana. "Not only people don't know the truth about it, the government won't let people find out about the truth," Kappel said. "That is why I want to start NORML." According to NORML's Web site, the University of Missouri-Columbia, Central Missouri State University and William Woods University have NORML chapters. There also are chapters in the Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City areas.Kappel said at the University of Washington D.C., NORML is the third-largest campus organization behind the Republican and Democratic parties' organizations. He said a lot of false stereotypes surround people who smoke pot. "People have grown up just always hearing, 'Oh, cannabis is so wrong, like, don't become a pothead," Kappel said. The actual marijuana use, he said, isn't what is ruining people lives. He said 700,000 people are arrested each year because of marijuana use, according to NORML's information. People need to know this is a lot of wasted money stopping drug trafficking, especially marijuana, Kappel said. He said the felonies people have on their records because of marijuana are ruining their lives. "What did [President Jimmy] Carter say? He goes, 'Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to the individual than the drug itself,'" Kappel said. Kappel said marijuana laws are not lowering its use, and it is not as dangerous as other drugs."The local police are really focusing on meth, and that is what they need to be focusing on because that is the drug that really harms people's brains," Kappel said.Tom Johnson, director of the department of public safety, said drug laws are strict."It is pretty much a zero-tolerance policy," Johnson said. "If we catch somebody with drugs they are going to be arrested and charged with whatever crime it happens to be."Johnson said the strict laws concerning drugs are put in place for a reason. "I hope [the laws] would make people think a little bit about what they are doing," Johnson said. There were four drug-related arrests on campus in 2004. Johnson said all were marijuana related."[Marijuana] is always a concern, but I don't think it is a real big problem," Johnson said. Sujit Chemburkar, Student Union Building director, said there are many benefits to forming student organizations like NORML because students will engage in important conversations. "The thing about marijuana and drugs is that it is pretty polarizing," Chemburkar said. "There aren't so many people middle of the road. It is for or against, similar to abortion." Chemburkar said all people have the right to assemble on campus as long as they are not breaking laws or University policies. He said it will be interesting to see how NORML fits in on campus."My senses are we are pretty conservative as a campus, but we have the flair of liberal arts education too," Chemburkar said. "We have an appreciation of diversity." It is important that organizations are aware of University policies. For instance, NORML will not be able to use a marijuana leaf for on-campus publicity, he said. NORML may face resistance from those opponents of its mission."I think they should probably think about how they are going to handle being in the spot light," Chemburkar said. "Some of that is going to be very charged, politicized and probably not very well supported." Kappel said he should not face opposition and he hopes he doesn't."I'm not doing anything wrong," Kappel said. "I am just trying to change policy."Kappel said he plans on educating students on the truth about marijuana by passing out information, showing documentaries and hosting events like barbecues and festivals. He said he is working on the NORML constitution and will have an informational meeting for interested people soon. Source: Truman Index (MO)Author: Maggie Wolcott Published: Thursday, September 29, 2005 Copyright: 2005 College Publisher Inc.Contact: index truman.eduWebsite: NORML Archives
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