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|April 16-22, 2009
• See Legalize it? Yes or no?
Our failing marijuana policies need reform
Decriminalizing marijuana won’t help society
• High Crime
• 4/20 Festivities
Amidst the fog of 4/20, a look at marijuana laws in Colorado
The Emerald Initiative challenges campuses to
change marijuana policies
by Boulder Weekly Staff
Across the nation, campuses are being asked to rethink their alcohol laws and sign up in support of the Amethyst Initiative. The Amethyst Initiative, launched this past July, asks a simple question: Are our current drinking laws working? With what is being labeled an epidemic in the rise of college-age binge drinking, most statistics will answer that question with a blatant, “No.”
Here in Boulder, Gordie Bailey fell victim to that epidemic when he died of alcohol poisoning at a CU frat house in 2004.
One of the major goals of the Amethyst Initiative is to support the lowering of the legal drinking age to 18 in an effort to approach our alcohol culture from a different and safer perspective. Thus far, three Colorado colleges have signed on in support of the Amethyst Initiative — Metro State College of Denver, Mesa State College and Colorado College.
But other organizations are taking a different approach in advocating campus policies that reflect responsible partying — by taking marijuana use into consideration.
It’s a campaign being labeled the Emerald Initiative, and its main purpose is to encourage college campuses to enforce marijuana-related penalties to at least the same degree as drinking offenses. While schools typically have graduated penalties or a strike system in place for dealing with underage drinking, most schools have a zero-tolerance policy toward marijuana possession or use. Headed by Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the Emerald Initiative wants students who would like to use marijuana as an alternative to drinking to be able to do so without being deterred by the disproportionately negative ramifications of being caught.
“There’s substantial evidence that marijuana and alcohol are the two most popular substances amongst college-aged individuals,” says Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER. “Yet, one of them causes substantial harm, while the other causes relatively far less harm. And universities, and we as a society, steer students towards drinking and away from marijuana, and that’s bad public policy.”
And while universities might tell you that they don’t encourage student drinking, the signs say otherwise.
At CU, you can find tailgaters at football games (which are played at a Coors Event Center), and students can purchase shot glasses alongside textbooks at the campus bookstore. But unabashed evidence can be found even in the official guides offered to students.
The CU-Boulder Off-Campus Student Services’ pamphlet, “The Smart Party,” meant to present the legal consequences of hosting an alcohol-centered party, is inundated with tips, checklists and quick facts about noise-violation fines.
And though “The Smart Party” does encourage students to be on the lookout for signs of alcohol poisoning, and respond to those situations appropriately, there are otherwise no suggestions on how to drink responsibly or socially. Rather, the brochure is strewn with photos of students doing the exact opposite — students drinking on ungaurded balcony ledges, girls on the hoods of cars in toga outfits, a coffee table littered with an array of unattended open beverages, and a large group of males, yelling and pointing fingers.
And though the University may consider these photographs to be adequate representations of “smart” or “safe” partying, they definitely succeed in relaying one message: drinking is normal and acceptable.
But the lack of campus brochures about marijuana, and the fact that students caught possessing marijuana on campus are subject to suspension, gives the message that the drug does not bare the same acceptance in the eyes of campus authority.
One reason often cited in support of this discrepancy is the fact that marijuana is illegal, and alcohol is not. However, SAFER points out that underage drinking is also illegal and yet colleges are quick to encourage safe, responsible alcohol use to its 18- to 20-year-old populations.
In addition to fighting the unbalanced penalties on campuses, the initiative also addresses the alcohol-versus-marijuana disparities in federal policies such as the Higher Education Act.
“If you’re a college student and you get caught using marijuana one time and get convicted, you lose your financial aid,” notes Tvert. “However, you could be involved in a grossly negligent vehicular homicide under the influence of alcohol and don’t.”
But possibly most important for the Emerald Initiative is to get open lines of communication about marijuana — its use, effects and the general laws surrounding it — into the collegiate domain.
Attached with the Emerald Initiative’s letters to colleges is a survey for the administration to fill out. It asks the schools questions about perception — whether they see alcohol or marijuana use as a problem on their campus, for example — as well as more hard-line questions about reported campus sexual assaults and violent incidents that involve alcohol versus those that involve marijuana. Whether schools will reply is yet to be determined.
“It will be very telling,” says Tvert, “because part of the problem is that they don’t want to have this conversation, and that’s unfortunate.”
According to SAFER, when students themselves are posited with ideas on how to curb student drinking, the idea of less harsh marijuana penalties comes up often.
“At every school where this has been brought up, including at least six of the top 15 universities in the country, every school has had a majority [student] vote in favor of these measures,” says Tvert. “In Colorado, it is at 68 percent.”
And though the students may have little input in terms of the adopted policies set forth by the university administration, their stances toward marijuana is telling of their desires.
Tvert agrees: “Why on earth do these gray-haired college administrators think that they have a better grasp on what’s going on at college parties than the kids that are actually at them?”
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Saturday, April 18, 2009
Location: CU Campus, Mathematics Building, Room 101 (near the intersection of Colorado and Folsom)
7:00 p.m. — Keynote Address: Jessica Peck Corry, executive director of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative will participate in an open discussion regarding the legal status of marijuana, including current reform and federal drug enforcement surrounding marijuana, as well as the legal channels in which reform takes place and how to become an active citizen.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Location: CU Campus, Eaton Humanities Building, Room 1B50 (just North of the Norlin Quadrangle)
11:00 a.m. — Welcome Panel: Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML and the NORML@CU board of directors will discuss the legal status of marijuana in the current day.
12:00 p.m. — Health and Marijuana: Dr. Robert Melamede, Endocannabinoid Specialist, UCCS Professor; and Scott Karr Esq., Attorney for THC Foundation will give an overview of marijuana and its effects on the human body.
12:30 p.m. — Hemp: A stepping-stone on a path to a sustainable future: Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML; Michael West, education director, CU Biodiesel; and Laura Kriho, Colorado Hemp Initiative Project will present the history of the American hemp industry, its current legal status, and possible solutions to climate disruption and economic recession.
1:00 p.m. — History of Marijuana Prohibition: Kevin Booth, award-winning filmmaker/activist; and Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER will present the history of marijuana drug prohibition in the United States.
1:30 p.m. — The State of Medical Marijuana: Tom Sloan, commander, Boulder County Drug Task Force; Devin Koontz, Food and Drug Administration; Scott Karr Esq., attorney for THC Foundation; Brian Vicente Esq., executive director of Sensible Colorado; and Michael Lee, founder of Cannabis Therapeutics will discuss current, past and possible future laws regarding the medical use of marijuana.
2:00 p.m. — Federal and State Laws: Tom Sloan, commander, Boulder County Drug Task Force; Devin Koontz, Food and Drug Administration; Lenny Frieling Esq., retired Lafayette Judge; Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML; and a DEA Special Agent (tentative) will speak on the differences in laws at different levels of government and explain the stratification in the legal process.
2:30 p.m. — Marijuana Law Reform: Past, Present, and Future: Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML; Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER; Jonathon Perri, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, San Francisco; and Brian Vicente Esq., executive director of Sensible Colorado will discuss current legislation, possible legislation for your hometown, past breakthroughs in reform and future goals.
3:15 p.m. — Cannabis Cultural Icons: Steve Bloom, former editor of High Times; and Kevin Booth, award-winning filmmaker/activist will look at the societal aspect of marijuana, including its cultural significance, ties to media and entertainment and how it affects culture.
4:00 p.m. — The Great Debate: Marijuana Legalization vs. Marijuana Criminalization: Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML; and Drug Free America (TBA). As Federal government has failed to address marijuana prohibition since the Schaffer Commission, this debate will look at opposing viewpoints on the legalization of marijuana.
4:45 p.m. — Closing Panel: Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML; and NORML@CU. This panel will bring together both sides of the debate and summarize the day’s events. The talk will bring the forum full-circle and discuss the future of marijuana prohibition, law reform and how students can empower themselves to make right decisions and become active citizens in the U.S.
Location: CU Campus, Cristol Chemistry, Room 140 (just North of the UMC Fountain)
7:00 p.m. — American Drug War Film Screening: Kevin Booth, award-winning filmmaker, www.americandrugwar.com. Inspired by the deaths of four family members from “legal drugs,” Texas filmmaker Kevin Booth sets out to discover why the War on Drugs has become such a colossal failure. Nearly four years in the making, the film follows gang members, former DEA agents, CIA officers, narcotics officers, judges, politicians, prisoners and celebrities. American Drug War shows how money, power and greed have not just corrupted dope fiends but an entire government. More importantly, it shows what can be done about it.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Location: CU Campus, Norlin Quadrangle, Boulder
4:20 p.m. — 4/20 is International Cannabis Day, celebrated by millions of people throughout the world. Every year on 4/20 at 4:20 p.m., citizens worldwide gather together to celebrate their favorite plant. On 4/20/2007, there were 5,000 people. On 4/20/08, there were 10,000 people. On 4/20/09 at 4:20 p.m., NORML@CU expects over 15,000 people.
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