MU hosts NORML state conference to discuss marijuana

Friday, March 18, 2011 | 6:19 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Marijuana law reform activists will converge at MU for a conference to discuss how to accelerate the progress of marijuana law reform in Missouri.

The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws' Missouri State Conference will be held on Friday and Saturday in MU's Arts and Sciences Building.

"We will also be talking about what's going on across the country because it's one of the most exciting times in marijuana prohibition," said Dan Viets, Missouri coordinator for NORML.

Viets said they are looking forward to having speakers Michael Krawitz, national director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, and Russ Belville, national staff member of NORML, present on both Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, Belville presents at 4 p.m. and Krawitz at 5 p.m. On Saturday, Krawitz presents at 4 p.m. and Belville at 5 p.m.

MU School of Law professor David Mitchell also will speak about the failure of the war on drugs, according to a news release.

The release also stated the conference will consist of an array of speakers, including John Coffman, a professional lobbyist and former Columbia city councilman; Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform; leaders of NORML state chapters; and representatives from other organizations.

One issue to be discussed is House Bill 698, the medical marijuana legislation now pending before the Missouri General Assembly, according to the release. The bill has been assigned to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, Viets said.

"We are just waiting for the chairman to schedule a hearing," Viets said. He said the question of medical marijuana could go to voters in November 2012.

The events on Saturday will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will include a panel of medical marijuana patients in the afternoon.

Viets said he hopes to see at least a couple hundred by the close of the conference.

All the events are free and open to the general public.

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