Pubdate: Sun, 11 Mar 2007
Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2007 Columbia Missourian
Author: Esther Cho
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)
Bookmark: (NORML)


Students, Activists And Professionals Discuss How To Change Drug Laws.

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 

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.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom