by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced." — Albert Einstein
Global Marijuana March 2012 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
"Only 5 of us in Malaysia. It’s not the number that counts, it’s the determination that matters."
STORRS, CT – Following a meeting with student government leaders on January 30, 2011, the University of Connecticut’s Office of Community Standards altered its penalties for students found in possession of small amounts of marijuana, equalizing the punishment with underage drinking. The change is largely in response to Connecticut’s recent decriminalization of marijuana, which lowered the penalty for possession of under half an ounce of marijuana to a fine of $150 and a 60-day license suspension for those under 21, rather than up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalty for underage alcohol possession is a fine of $181 and a 150-day license suspension.
Sam Tracy, current President of the Student Body and former president of UConn Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), says, “I am happy to have worked with the Office of Community Standards to update the list of possible sanctions, effectively equalizing the punishments for underage drinking and possession of small amounts of marijuana. This change has made UConn’s response to these two minor drug violations much more sensible, focusing on the health of the student rather than on harsh sanctions that do nothing to solve the problem.”
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has been working on reforming marijuana penalties for many months now, beginning with its endorsement of marijuana decriminalization in March 2011. Student Body President Sam Tracy authored the endorsement as a Senator and later won the race for President on a platform that included reforming campus marijuana policies. In November 2011, the Undergraduate Student Government passed a statement of position supporting allowing Resident Assistants to handle marijuana violations, rather than the current policy in which Resident Assistants are required to call the UConn Police Department if they suspect someone is in possession of marijuana.
Bryan Flanaghan, USG Senator and author of the bill, said, “A vast majority of incidents at UConn involving marijuana involve small, decriminalized amounts, so it makes sense for Residential Life to handle these incidents internally and save the police time that could be better used stopping drunk drivers or other dangerous activities.” Following the bill’s passage, USG leaders set up a meeting with top administrators to discuss the proposal. The administrators were reluctant to take police out of confrontations involving marijuana, citing concerns for the safety of Resident Assistants and the possibility that offenders could be in possession of large amounts of marijuana that would require an arrest.
However, it was agreed upon that rather than equalize the procedures for dealing with alcohol and marijuana violations, equalizing the sanctions would be beneficial. The Office of Community Standards’ website had previously stated that a possible sanction for underage alcohol possession was a warning and the “UConn Compass” program, which is designed to help students make healthy decisions, and that the possible sanction for “possession and/or use of illegal drugs” was a University Suspension. On Janusamary 31, the Office of Community Standards revised its policies to state that the possible sanctions for both underage alcohol possession and possession of small amounts of marijuana include a warning, UConn Compass, and a Wellness and Prevention educational sanction. The possible sanctions for both offenses, when involving aggravating factors such as prior offenses or large amounts of either drug, include “University Probation, Removal from Housing, [and a] Wellness and Prevention educational sanction.”
Michael Gallie, current president of UConn’s chapter of SSDP, says, “Equalizing UConn’s penalties for underage alcohol and small amounts of marijuana simply makes sense – when state law treats the two infractions as equal, it’s sensible for the state’s flagship university to do so as well.”
For all the progress that’s been made towards bringing the drug policy debate into the political mainstream, there remains a tragic tendency among many in the press to burst out laughing at the idea of fixing our disastrous drug laws. The latest embarrassing example comes courtesy of Al Kamen in The Washington Post:
Yes, we know that jobs and the economy are the marquee issues for this campaign. Even major topics such as war and education are getting short shrift among the wannabe nominees.
Pass the chips, dude. This is some entertaining TV.
Pass the chips? Wow. I can’t speak for Al Kamen, but there’s nothing about the War on Drugs that makes me hungry for junk food. Eric Sterling didn’t like Kamen’s tone very much either and responded with a deservedly harsh letter to the editor:
Regarding Al Kamen’s Jan. 18 column “ ‘Reefer Madness’ for the YouTube Generation”:
This article is consistent with my hypothesis that the rules of professional conduct of journalists or some style manual require that articles about drug policy include a joke about chips, brownies or junk food. Can reporters and editors be so humor-deprived that they always have to joke about laws and policies that every year put hundreds of thousands of cannabis users in handcuffs, give them a criminal record and cost hundreds of millions of dollars on pointless police overtime. Ha, ha, ha, “pass the chips”; I’m dying with laughter.
Kamen’s childishness is meant to be cute, I assume, but it plainly belittles a gutsy effort by a concerned group of young Americans to ask valid questions of candidates on the campaign trail. How odd it is that he calls attention to these young activists bravely confronting prominent politicians, only to turn around and insult them. For what…caring about something?
Is the arrest of close to a million Americans a year for marijuana a strange or entertaining thing to be upset about? For that matter, is our world-record incarceration rate and the spiraling costs that go along with it? Is the escalating violence in Mexico amusing to anyone? If these things aren’t funny, then we should be applauding rather than laughing when someone works to ensure that we don’t ignore these issues entirely when choosing our next president.
Above is a photo from the 2011 SSDP Training Conference & Lobby Day, an intensive training conference that provided students and activists with the skills to run effective campaigns, build campus organizations, improve public speaking skills, and work with the media to advocate sensible drug policies.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA / JUNE 17, 2011 - the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the “War on Drugs”
Several hundred people gathered at City Hall for a press conference and to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the state legislature prioritize vital social services over spending on prisons. Then, accompanied by drummers from the Brass Liberation Orchestra, they marched through the city center to state office buildings before returning to City Hall. (via Rallies, Vigils Mark 40 Years of Failed Drug War)
Kentucky attorney and legendary marijuana and hemp advocate Gatewood Galbraith has passed away from complications due to pneumonia. He was 64. Gatewood was cut from the same cloth as Jack Herer. A fiery, articulate cannabis activist for decades, Gatewood ran five times for governor of Kentucky – three times as a Democrat, once on the Reform ticket and last year as an independent. He finished third in the three-candidate race this past November.
Galbraith was a strong advocate for hemp farming in Kentucky. On his campaign website, he wrote: “My view is that government’s role should be to uplift, enlighten, educate and ennoble the citizen, not oppress them with taxation and intrusive laws.”
A colorful personality possessing a sharp wit, Gatewood told the Louisville Courier-Journal just last October, “I want the government to stay out of my life unless I represent a threat to somebody else or their property.”
Galbraith was interviewed by HIGH TIMES in March 1990 and appeared on the cover of the magazine with Willie Nelson in January 1991. Just last year Gatewood visited the HIGH TIMES office to discuss the importance of individual rights – particularly in relation to marijuana. +
Let’s start building this tag!
If you are active in reforming drug policy, I’d love to see your posts chronicling events, projects, and other modes of activism used to promote sensible drug policy.
Please tag these posts with #drug policy activism. Here are a few examples:
Now that 2012 is here and the election season is upon us, I hope to see a lot of great content on this tag.
In addition, here are three Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters (that I know of) that have joined Tumblr:
(UC San Diego has one as well, but it hasn’t been updated in a while.)
Please let me know of any that I am missing from this list. Thank you.