Talking Tree With The Founders Of NORML

By chillinwill · Dec 5, 2009 ·
  1. chillinwill
    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 organizations.

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

    "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 future.

    "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."

    Ellen Stuart
    December 4, 2009
    The New Hampshire

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