November 7, 2002

U.S. Marijuana Laws Focus of NORML Talk

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Members of both the Cornell and Ithaca communities met last night in the Appel Commons to discuss current issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana. The debate was sponsored by Cornell’s Community Development and organized by Michael Barry M.Ed. ’02, program director of the Noyes Community Center.

Keith Stroup, founder and director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), advocates the decriminalization of marijuana for multiple reasons. He stated that as long as the recreational use of the drug was responsible, harmless or medicinal, there was no need for the government to allocate their already tight funds to “arrest responsible marijuana smokers who are just average Americans. They work hard, raise families and contribute to their communities.”

Stroup also spoke of the importance of having a legally regulated market from which individuals could safely buy marijuana, which would thereby get rid of much of the crime, corruption and violence that many associate with marijuana use.

Ann Druyan, author, writer and television producer agreed with Stroup on the benefits of legalizing marijuana and continues to struggle with the task of bridging the gap between the public’s support of its legalization and with public policy. In order to do this, Druyan encourages “solid citizens to stand up and say that [public policy] is wrong.” Through the examples of these individuals, she feels that others will be more open with their lifestyles and that society will see that the use of marijuana does not have to be viewed as negatively as it has been thus far.

According to the speakers, marijuana is one of the top three recreational drugs, falling third after alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal yet have proven more harmful effects on the body than marijuana.

Globally, the United States stands as one of the few countries that continues to uphold a strong stance against the legalization of marijuana. Canada recently legalized the medical use of marijuana and is presently cultivating their own government crop, so that in the future they can supply the drug to patients in need, according to the speakers.

Additionally, 17 of the 21 countries in the European Union do not arrest marijuana users. Although there are several states that have drastically decreased the penalties for the possession of marijuana, all United States citizens who use the drug, including those who use it medicinally, risk being punished by the federal government, as stated by the speakers.

Barry invited many groups with opposing viewpoints to attend the discussion but they all declined, making the evening extremely one-sided.

The seemingly strong and prevalent feelings of most individuals in attendance would agree with John Polowczyk ’05, who “would like to see progress made in this area. It’s safe if people use it responsibly and it makes for a good time.”

Andrew Bernie ’05, believed that as a result of the pro-legalization beliefs of the vast majority of attendees, it was an evening full of “preaching about how great pot is instead of having a more dispassionate analysis.”

The anti-legalization side of the debate was not confronted and individuals with the same sentiments as Bernie felt that the evening could have been more factual and complete had the other side been addressed.

Archived article by Michelle Melnick