Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2011
Source: Maneater, The (Uof Missouri - Columbia, MO Edu)
Copyright: 2011 The Maneater
Author: Madeline O'Leary


The Guest Speakers Promoted Activism in Addition to Legislation.

Spencer Pearson puffed two blunts of Mexican schwag for the first time
during his senior year of high school. Pearson, the MU National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws president, said it was
then he realized he'd been fed lies about what marijuana is and what
it does.

With four boxes of Hotbox cookies and a few dozen attendees, NORML
monitored a panel discussion Wednesday night. Pearson and four guest
speakers strongly urged attendees to advocate legislation in favor of
the legalization of marijuana.

"Now is the best time in history to change the current drug policy,"
said Mark Pedersen, Sensible Missouri activist and guest speaker. "Get
educated, learn the truth and share it with other people."

Much of the discussion focused around the drug policy in

Drug prohibition laws negatively affects the city of Columbia, said
Mitch Richards, First Ward Candidate for City Council and guest speaker.

Richards said 40 percent of the SWAT raids in Columbia take place in
the First Ward.

The majority of the SWAT raids are drug-related, Richards said. But,
he said he believes the money seized from these drug raids is used to
militarize the police force.

The process of raiding a home and keeping the findings is known as
civil asset forfeiture, Pearson said. In the state of Missouri, if the
SWAT raid includes a federal agent such as a Drug Enforcement
Association officer, Pearson said, the law enforcement receives 80
percent of all assets seized in the raid.

"(The police) don't raid people's houses to get drugs off the street,"
said Pearson, formerly of The Maneater staff. "They wait until the
drugs are sold, then collect the cash. They're policing for profit."

Pearson said the problem with civil asset forfeiture is the complete
absence of civilian oversight.

Criminal defense lawyer and former Missouri Students Association
President Dan Viets encouraged audience members to remain distant from
police officers and to know their rights.

"Don't talk to the police," Viets said. "They are not your friends.
They won't help you out, and they will still arrest people every day
for smoking pot."

Aside from marijuana in relation to the law, much of the discussion
emphasized the benefits of marijuana in medicine. Sensible Missouri
activist and guest speaker Mark Pedersen said he became a medicinal
marijuana activist out of what he considered necessity. While working
a well-paying job at Ameren UE, Pedersen was exposed to high levels of
lead and arsenic and subsequently became sick from metal

"I was married, had kids, had a great job and a great car, but I lost
it all because of chronic illness and the inefficiency of the medicine
I was given," Pedersen said. "I was taking experimental drugs for my
migraines and lost my memory."

Pedersen later discovered the usage of cannabis for medicinal
purposes. Hesaid he faced the difficult decision of either continuing
to take the pharmaceuticals administered to him or become a criminal
by breaking the law and smoking marijuana, he said.

"I've seen the benefits first-hand," Pedersen said. "We have this
holistic substance that's non-toxic and that can fight cancer, prevent
seizures, help migraines  which I don't have anymore  and you can't
overdose. I take nothing now except for cannabis."

Toward the end of the discussion, the guest speakers urged activist
support for the 2012 ballot initiative concerning the full
legalization of marijuana.

"You won't change the law by sneaking into Jefferson City," Viets
said. "Lobbyists are not listening, and they don't care. The only way
they'll care is if you do. All we have to do is act." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake