NORML Chief: Stop Punishing Pot Use

NORML Chief: Stop Punishing Pot Use
Posted by CN Staff on September 05, 2003 at 07:08:13 PT
By Alice Wallace, Special to The Sun
Source: Gainesville Sun
Keith Stroup admits he smokes pot. That's a subject most people avoid, but Stroup, who founded and is executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is not shy about the issue.He came to the University of Florida on Thursday night and spoke to about 1,000 people about why no one should be punished for enjoying a drug that he said is safer than alcohol or cigarettes.
"It is important that we stop treating those of us who smoke marijuana like criminals," he said. The event was co-sponsored by Accent, UF's speaker's bureau.The year-old NORML chapter at UF had the idea to bring Stroup to speak at UF to bring attention to its fight for marijuana reform.Matt Jones, promotions director and co-founder of NORML UF, said NORML UF passed out 5,000 fliers promoting the event.Stroup founded NORML in 1970 and has been lobbying on Capitol Hill for the reformation of marijuana laws. Matt King, a third-year UF student, was interested to hear Stroup."I want to hear what the pro-legalization dogma is in Washington," he said. "It should be interesting."Logan Steuben, a 19-year-old UF student, had his own ideas."I believe anything you do that doesn't cause harm to others, you should be able to do," Steuben said.That was also the basic premise for Stroup's speech.Throughout the 45-minute talk, Stroup quoted figures and statistics to make his point that responsible use of marijuana should not be punished.He quoted a CNN/Time magazine poll from 2002 that found that 47 percent of Americans admitted to having smoked marijuana at some point in their lives.Also, he pointed out that marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in the country, just behind alcohol and cigarettes. He said alcohol kills about 50,000 Americans each year, and cigarette-related deaths average 430,000 a year. Not only has no one ever overdosed on marijuana, he said, it is nearly impossible to do, he said."Perhaps there is no such thing as a harmless drug," Stroup said, "but marijuana is the closest thing to it."Stroup also talked about marijuana for medical use. He said marijuana cannot only be used to alleviate medical symptoms such as pain from nerve damage or nausea, but preliminary studies have shown that heavy doses of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that causes mind-altering effects, may be able to regenerate brain tissue damaged in severe accidents like car crashes."It seems inconceivable to me that anyone would want to deny effective medication to seriously ill patients," Stroup said.Stroup said 724,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges last year, which he broke down into one smoker arrested every 46 seconds. In monetary terms, he said that's $10 billion dollars spent on chasing, arresting and prosecuting nonviolent marijuana smokers each year.Stroup has been fighting for the decriminalization of pot for more than 30 years and remains optimistic about the future for those who "enjoy smoking a marijuana cigarette to relax.""We are gradually but steadily winning this fight," Stroup said as the closing words of his speech were met with a standing ovation. Source: Gainesville Sun, The (FL)Author: Alice Wallace, Special to The SunPublished: September 5, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Gainesville SunContact: voice gvillesun.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:NORML NORML To Light Up UF with Activism Legalization Group Has First Meeting Group Advocates Marijuana Use 
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