California -- The Humboldt State University chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws will hold its first annual NORML Day conference at the Kate Buchanan room at HSU on Friday.
The conference will include a forum on the cannabis policy at HSU, a presentation about the industrial use of hemp by hemp store Solutions owner Kevin Johnson, a hemp jewelry-making presentation by NORML member Jessie Beck, a “Know your rights” workshop by David Cobb, a keynote address by activist Eddy Lepp, lectures by Joen Madonna and Dr. Amanda Reiman of the University of California, Berkeley, and a lecture on organizing for direct action by HSU professor Dan Faulk.
David Lawlor, NORML member and former HSU chapter vice president, said NORML is a national organization with hundreds of chapters. The HSU chapter has been in existence since October 2005, and has since gained more than 200 members.
Lawlor said in the advocacy of drug rights, there are two camps: decriminalization and legalization. While he said he is not able to speak for all members of NORML, Lawlor believes the group’s intention is to legalize but heavily tax marijuana for both medicinal and recreational uses.
The club is active on the HSU campus, as it has held frequent movie nights, meetings and the Million Marijuana March in May, and frequently hosts educational videos and workshops about how to avoid and deal with arrest.
Lawlor said the group gathered 310 pounds of food for the Holiday Food Drive last year, for which they were awarded with lunch with HSU President Rollin Richmond.
“It is not unusual for campuses to have the NORML group on them because young people are often interested in questioning the traditional values, and this is one where I generally happen to agree,” Richmond said via a recent telephone interview.
Richmond said marijuana is widely used on the HSU campus, and it is a large component of the local culture and economy.
“By some estimates, the local drug trade is from $100 to $400 million; it is a very strong underground economy, but we don’t have the exact numbers,” Richmond said. “If it were legalized, there would be a lot less crime, and perhaps more housing. I have been told that a lot of housing is used as indoor growing, and if it were legalized, it would free up a lot of housing. ... I support the normalization and heavy taxation of drug use.”
When they met with Richmond, Lawlor said, NORML representatives spoke to him about the campus marijuana policy. Because HSU receives federal funds, the campus follows the laws of federal land, including the federal position on medical marijuana. If a student is caught with marijuana on campus, the university police do not recognize 215 cards or paperwork. However, District Attorney Paul Gallegos has stated that he will not prosecute medical marijuana cases, Lawlor said.
“It is really unclear; it is a very confusing situation,” Lawlor said. “If someone had enough money, they could really take it to court. This system is not very solid.”
Lawlor said Richmond agreed that the group had a good point, but directed them to Vice President of Student Affairs Steven Butler, after which there was no further action. When contacted, Butler declined to comment.
At the conference, a panel of students, NORML representatives and Alcohol and Other Drug Specialist Vincent Feliz will participate in a discussion about marijuana policy on campus, a discussion which will be moderated by HSU professor Allen Amundsen.
Lawlor emphasized that this discussion will not be a “screaming match,” but rather a professional, mature discussion about an important campus topic.
Humboldt State University Chief of Police Tom Dewey said the university police do not keep statistics on the number of marijuana citations on campus or the number of citations involving medical marijuana cards, though he said that the proportion that “present some allegation it is for medicinal purposes” is less than a third.
Dewey said he sent a letter to HSU NORML about the UPD policies on marijuana, which stressed that the regulations are made at the statewide level, that medical marijuana is among items such as fireworks, bows and arrows, open containers of alcohol and live birds, items that can be possessed off campus but not on campus, and that marijuana-related robbery and assault is a threat.
Dewey said the abuse of any controlled substance does interfere with the educational mission of the university, but to eliminate all marijuana use on campus would require “severely compromising individual privacy.”
“We do respond to periodic incidents related to marijuana use on campus, including selected students suffering allergic reactions and/or severe anxiety after ingesting marijuana, non-users in conflict with users smoking nearby, fire safety violations related to smoking in buildings and tampering with smoke alarms, non-students and criminal offenders coming onto campus to participate in illegal marijuana dealing and use and violent assaults related to marijuana distribution.
Lawlor said the group has goals for marijuana legalization off campus as well, and that he expects the group to gain influence as it grows.
“A few years ago, the city of Oakland passed Measure Z, where cannabis enforcement was placed lowest priority for the police,” Lawlor said. “What Z is basically saying is that if a cop were to see a jaywalker and someone smoking a joint, they would go after the jaywalker.”
Lawlor said other cities, such as Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Denver, passed similar laws afterwards, and he said he could see the city of Arcata doing the same.
If NORML gained success in Arcata, they would then take on the city of Eureka or the County of Humboldt.
“I think that this area is conducive to this sort of legislation,” Lawlor said. “It is part of the culture, the economy. When we went around to local businesses for support for the conference, we got a lot of support; there was no one who questioned it or who disagreed with what we were saying.”
Source: Eureka Reporter, The (US CA)
Author: Laura Provolt
Copyright: 2006 The Eureka Reporter