Pubdate: Fri, 04 Dec 2009
Source: New Hampshire, The (NH Edu)
Copyright: The New Hamphire 2009
Author: Ellen Stuart
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Chances are you've done it. Or if you haven't, chances  are you know
someone who does. Chances are your mom and  dad did it back in the
day-maybe they still do.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it's  the country's
most commonly used illegal substance. And  chances are, you still
don't like to discuss it-but  there's a new student organization in
town that wants  to change the way we talk about pot.

The new UNH chapter of the National Organization for  the Reform of
Marijuana Law is setting out to educate  students about their rights,
and to work from the  ground up on reforming marijuana law.

In 2007, 31.8 percent of college students in a  Department of Justice
survey reported using marijuana  in their lifetime-but it's still an
illegal substance  that many people are uncomfortable discussing. Jenn
  Hall, a sophomore and one of the founders of NORML,  emphasized that
while the drug itself might be illegal,  talking about it isn't.

"We realized marijuana wasn't something that was talked  about," she
said. "We're off-base in the way we think  about it. Our first goal is
to get a discussion going  and educate people about their rights."

Hall and fellow sophomore Nick Murray started a chapter  of NORML at
UNH this year, and have already received an  overwhelming response.
Their first meeting drew 18  people, and by the second meeting that
number had more  than doubled.

"There was a need for a group like this," Hall said.  "It's something
people want to talk about."

NORML is a national non-profit organization that was  founded in 1970.
According to NORML's mission  statement, the goal of the group is to
lobby against  the prohibition of marijuana and against arresting
users of the drug. UNH NORML is the only chapter in the  state. Many
other colleges, including Boston University  and Suffolk University,
have chapters of NORML on their  roster of student

This fall, Murray applied to NORML to form an official  chapter and
went to Student Organization Services for  official

"Everything went really smoothly," Murray said. "We got  recognition
from both NORML and the university without  any trouble."

In July, Governor John Lynch vetoed House Bill 648,  which would have
legalized medical marijuana in New  Hampshire, and at the end of
October the New Hampshire  General Court narrowly failed in overriding
the veto.

"I understand and empathize with the advocates for  allowing medical
marijuana use in New Hampshire.  However, the fact remains that
marijuana use for any  purpose remains illegal under federal law,"
Lynch said  in a statement made after the veto.

It was a tremendous letdown for the founders of NORML.

"I was so disappointed in democracy," Hall said. "The  legislature
passed it, the house passed it, and then  the governor vetoed it."

Murray was also disappointed in the veto, but is  looking to the

"It's going to come up again," he said. "There will be  another bill,
and when there is, we'll be ready to  help."

In addition to lobbying lawmakers, the members of NORML  are planning
a push for education in the upcoming  semester. Plans for films,
speakers, open forums and  ultimately a "smoke-out"-a mass gathering
of civilly  disobedient pot smokers-are all in the works.

"We don't believe marijuana is morally wrong, and we  want people to
know it's not socially wrong to talk  about it," said Hall. "And it
absolutely needs to be  talked about."

UNH NORML meets on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. in MUB  Room 334. 
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