Students hash out marijuana laws

Students+hash+out+marijuana+laws

Hannah Ash

The third floor of the IUS Library was packed as 135 students participated in a discussion about marijuana legalization during the IUS Civil Liberty Union’s Spring Forum on Thurs., April 11.

During the forum, four panel members discussed different aspects of the marijuana legalization issue and then opened the floor for questions. The panel consisted of Jane Heneger, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana Executive Director, Neal Smith, President of Indiana National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Chad Padgett, speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Jonathon Miller, former Kentucky state treasurer.

A record number of 135 students attended Civil Liberties Union Spring Forum about marijuana on the third floor of the IUS Library on April 11. The topics that were discussed included the history of marijuana in the United States and how marijuana laws are not enforced equally across races.
A record number of 135 students attended Civil Liberties Union Spring Forum about marijuana on the third floor of the IUS Library on April 11. The topics that were discussed included the history of marijuana in the United States and how marijuana laws are not enforced equally across races.

Henegar said some people might wonder why the ACLU is involved in issues relating to marijuana legalization.

“The mission of the ACLU is to protect and assert the liberties and rights that are guaranteed to all of us under the state and federal constitution,” Heneger said.

She said the ACLU is concerned with the execution of drug laws and the application of drug laws shows a clear racial disparity. Despite consistent rates of marijuana use across demographics in the United States, African American individuals who use marijuana are four times more likely to be arrested than white individuals who use marijuana, Henegar said

“It has also been clear that the war on drugs hasn’t been working,” she said. “Those arrests have not been affecting marijuana usage.”

Henegar said that marijuana arrests come at a high cost to both individuals and the nation and that marijuana arrests represent people that are not otherwise a threat to society. Being arrested for the non-violent crime of marijuana possession takes a personal toll on people’s lives and costs the government anywhere from $1 billion to $6 billion each year, Henegar said.

“That’s money that can be spent in other places,” she said. Henegar suggested that the money could be spent on education instead of enforcing marijuana laws.

During his presentation, Smith stressed that marijuana is not a dangerous drug.

“No one has ever died in the history of mankind of the ingestion of marijuana,” he said. “You cannot possibly overdose from marijuana.”

Smith said the government made marijuana illegal to stop the industrial use of hemp to keep hemp from competing with the oil industry. He said hemp can be used as fuel and to make biodegradable plastic.

Thomas Kotulak, Civil Liberties Union adviser, Chad Padgett, speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Neal Smith, president of the Indiana National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, discuss the benefits of the legalization of marijuana and the problems with marijuana remaining illegal. For more information contact the IUS chapter of the Civil Liberties Union in the Student Involvement Center.

“Want your water bottles? Make them out of hemp,” Smith said. “They’ll go away when you want them to because they are biodegradable.”

Smith said marijuana has always been an important part of American history and that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were first drafted on paper made from hemp.

Padgett, a former law-enforcement officer, said the legalization of marijuana would put smugglers out of business. He said when alcohol prohibition ended, it put an era of crime and mobsters to an end and the end of drug prohibition would serve the same purpose.

“Legalization would lower death, disease and crime without destroying generations,” Smith said.

He said the war on drugs is not working, and it is easier for a student to buy marijuana than beer or cigarettes because drug dealers do not ask for ID’s.

Miller said he believes it will not be long before marijuana is legalized.

“The real reason is your generation,” Miller said.

He said as more people from generation Y reach voting age, government officials will be forced to address the issue of marijuana laws.

The majority of current voters support legalizing marijuana and a supermajority of the generation Y individuals support it.

Miller said students need to help make sure politicians are not afraid to address marijuana.

“You’ve got to make them afraid of you,” he said. “You’ve got to make them have the fear that they are going to lose your generation.”

Dale Brown, general studies senior, said he was hoping the discussion would have more of a debate format and he found the discussion one-sided.

Brown said he is skeptical about some of the views expressed by the panel.

“I know they said marijuana has never killed anyone, but it kills every day,” He said. “People steal for it. It causes crime.”

Brown said he is also concerned that people will drive and use marijuana and cause accidents. He said he believes the government has the existing marijuana laws to protect people.

“I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s and drugs were rampant,” he said. “Marijuana is a stepping stone and then people getting into bigger things.”

Brown said the best solution might be to legalize marijuana for a short time so the younger generation can realize the effect it can have.

CLU president Stephon Moore said the event brought the biggest student turnout since the CLU’s Spring Forum began more than 15 years ago. The Pre-Med Society and Feminist Alliance cosponsored the event.

By HANNAH ASH

Staff

hash@ius.edu