Pubdate: Fri, 27 Apr 2007
Source: Maneater, The (Uof Missouri - Columbia, MO Edu)
Copyright: 2007 The Maneater
Author: Sarah Christiansen


Students from the MU National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws and Students for Sensible Drug Policy dominated the conversation
during a dinner with House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia,
Thursday night at Rollins dining hall.

Although members of the Associated Students of the University of
Missouri, the student lobbying group of the UM system and also the
sponsor of the event, seemed more interested in discussing higher
education policy issues such as the Emily Brooker Intellectual
Diversity Act and the sale of the Missouri Higher Education Loan
Authority, the discussion repeatedly turned back to Harris position
on marijuana laws.

Science needs to trump politics when it comes to prescription
medication, SSDP member Paul Weber said.

The city of Columbia passed an ordinance in 2004 that allows Columbia
patients to smoke medical marijuana without fear of being arrested by
Columbia police, but there is no Missouri state law protecting the use
of medical marijuana.

Harris said he has made his position clear in the past and doesn't
intend to budge.

I may sound old-fashioned, but I think marijuana is a gateway drug,
and I don't think it should be decriminalized, Harris said.
Part of my job is to make the best decision I'm empowered to make.

Although he was sure not to condemn students involved in marijuana
reform groups on campus, Harris questioned the motives of the major
groups pushing for reform. He said the same groups involved in the
push for decriminalization of marijuana in the 1970s are the same
groups pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana use now.

Although NORML and SSDP members mentioned that a majority of Columbia
voters approved a measure to permit the use of medical marijuana,
Harris said if voters feel strongly enough about the issue, they can
reflect that by voting him out of office.

Harrisa=80TM focus is statewide because he plans to run for attorney
general in 2008.

The discussion later turned to higher-education issues.

ASUM Programming Director Mark Buhrmester asked Harris what he and
other ASUM members perceive as an anti-MU sentiment in the General

I think there is anti-public higher-education sentiment, Harris

He said many legislators believe private universities do a better job
of educating students and that bias is reflected in

He said his probable opponent in the attorney general race, Rep. Carl
Bearden, R-St. Charles, is one legislator who exhibits an anti-public
higher-education attitude.

Bearden is an employee of Lindenwood University in St. Charles.

I think he's more interested in dogma, more in adhering to his
particular brand of philosophy than working out pragmatic solutions to
problems, Harris said. He's driven by a mindset that I just
don't agree with very often.

Students also asked Harris to discuss his opinions about the MOHELA

I'm against this thing because I came to the conclusion that we
shouldn't be selling assets of a student loan agency, Harris
said. Regardless of what buildings we could build on the Mizzou
campus, you're building it with money you shouldn't be building it

Other topics discussed included the regulation of industrial factory
farms and regulations on elderly drivers.
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