The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Students for Sensible Drug Policy held their 2007 state conference at the MU Arts and Science building Friday and Saturday.
About 35 people attended to hear professionals and activists discuss how to change drug policies at the university, city and statewide level. The conference schedule included educational sessions on industrial and medical marijuana use, lobbying and strengthening student activism and social events like dinner at the Grand Cru restaurant.
Chris Peterson, treasurer of the Truman State University SSDP, said the conference serves a dual purpose.
“It allows us to take in the views of experts in Missouri and national organizations, and it’s a chance for Missouri chapters for drug policy reform to network,” Peterson said.
Members of NORML share a common awareness that current drug policies need to be changed, but they have different takes on how to approach the issue, said Sean Randall, president of the NORML chapter at MU. Through the conference and NORML, Randall said students can plan ways to deal with drug policy issues.
For this year’s conference, Randall said an important focus is to raise awareness of a Missouri bill in the House of Representatives that calls for the medicinal use of marijuana to be legal on a statewide basis with doctor’s approval. In Columbia, since two propositions on the November 2004 ballot passed, possessing 35 grams or less of marijuana is legal if a person receives approval from a doctor. The other proposition passed on the ballot decriminalizes the possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, allowing a maximum fine of up to $200, but no jail time. The charges are handled through the municipal court, rather than the state and federal courts.
Dan Viets, criminal defense attorney and a National NORML board member, said: “Ninetynine percent of prosecutions are in the state courts, so it’s really important to focus on changing state laws.”
Eleven other states have already passed a bill allowing a limited amount of marijuana to be legal with approval from a doctor. Viets said a statewide bill would be more significant because it would allow a person to “grow and distribute through licensed and regulated dispensaries.”
Douglas McVay, editor of Drug War Facts, spoke for the session titled “Drug War Facts: How to Argue Legalization and Piss Off Prohibitionists.” He said one reason he attended the conference was to prompt students to speak out and equip them with education. McVay said he views students as having the potential to influence the decision making for drug policies.
“Before we have a social revolution, we need a cultural evolution,” he said. “Adults rationalize stupid ideas; young people still question them and ask why.”