MU students rally for legalized marijuana

Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 7:34 p.m. CDT
Josh Chittum urges crowd members to support the "Emerald Initiative." He argues that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, therefore students deserve the right to make the "educated decision" to use marijuana and not receive harsher punishments for it.

COLUMBIA — In recognition of National Alcohol Awareness Month, college students across the nation are proposing a question: Why not marijuana instead?

The Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation's Nationwide Day of Action on April 1 had students asking universities to stop “driving them to drink and allow them to use marijuana as a safer recreational alternative,” according to a news release from the organization.


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Because MU's spring break fell on April 1, students at MU participated Thursday. Students at San Diego State, Kent State, San Francisco State and Brown universities did the same.

“Student response has been magnificent,” said Mason Tvert, executive director for the organization. “We have seen students in 34 states taking action on their campuses.”

Around the country, students distributed information comparing the harmful effects of alcohol and marijuana and held signs arguing for the Emerald Initiative, a response to the Amethyst Initiative, which encourages open discussion on lowering the drinking age to 18.

The Emerald Initiative calls for "'informed and dispassionate public debate' on whether allowing students to use marijuana more freely could reduce dangerous drinking on and around college campuses," according to the news release. 

Students across the country visited university presidents with copies of the organization's Emerald Initiative, urging their presidents' endorsements. They also delivered copies of the book "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?"

Tvert said presidents of many universities had not heard of the Emerald Initiative before the Day of Action, and he hopes "it will be the beginning of a longer discussion.”

MU students participated by rallying in Speakers Circle, drawing raucous support from fellow students. As they continued their rally during a march to the office of MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, one supporter yelled: "Smoke weed every day."

Scott Lauher, member of the MU chapters of NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, helped organize the rally.

"Right now they push students to party with alcohol instead of marijuana," Lauher said.

Kellie Smith, president of NORML at MU, spoke to the crowd at Speakers Circle, arguing that punishment for marijuana use should be no greater than that for underage drinking. It’s time students learned to party responsibly, she said.

Lauher agreed. “We’d like (marijuana punishments) to be equalized with alcohol,” he said.

“Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less harmful than alcohol, both to the user and to society, yet students face more severe legal and university penalties for marijuana use than they do for alcohol use,” according to the organization’s Campuses Initiative Web site.

So far, Tvert is pleased with the outcome of the Day of Action.

“We’ve generated news coverage and discussion nationwide.”

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Ray Shapiro April 8, 2010 | 8:17 p.m.

With proposed cuts to mental health programs, behavioral health counseling, and increased substance abuse, as an unhealthy coping mechanism, perhaps it's time to modify the drinking habits of this town.
We can continue to discourage the use of street pot and make medical marijuana available by prescription only for those who most need it.
("State law allows incorporated cities to prohibit the on-premises sale of liquor by public referendum,[36] although no city in Missouri ever has held such a referendum.")
What better way for a retired doctor turned mayor to show his concern for the mental and physical health of his new "patients?"

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne April 9, 2010 | 6:56 a.m.

Prohibition has never worked. It neither discourages drug sales nor drug use. Prohibition simply fuels the prison industry by filling prisons with non-violent criminals charged with victimless crimes. If you want to lower the rate of recreational drug use across the board, use Holland as your guide. They have half the drug use per capita compared to the United States.

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