Another Group Supports Marijuana


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The SGA became the second major student organization to support lessening the punishment for marijuana possession in on-campus housing, voting nearly unanimously last night to push for a change in policy.

The vote, which is aimed only at influencing university officials, sends a strong message to administrators, student activists said. Because Residence Halls Association members narrowly passed a similar resolution in February, student advocates said the Student Government Association's added support should be difficult to ignore.

Last night's resolution specifies that marijuana possession should be downgraded from its status as an A-level violation, a status shared with violent crimes such as sexual assault, to a B-level violation, which is similar to underage alcohol consumption. Students found guilty of A-level violations face punishments as severe as housing termination or expulsion from the university.

Making marijuana possession a B-level offense would mean violators could be put on housing probation, compelled to complete community service or submit to random drug testing. But before that change is made, it must gain the support of Department of Resident Life Director Deb Grandner, who has said she does not support the bill. She has not yet announced a decision on the issue.

Co-president of marijuana advocacy group NORML Terps Amanda Van Hoesen said administrators have a "lack of understanding" for "what goes on in marijuana culture," but said two student groups' position that marijuana policies are too harsh makes it "really hard for [administrators] to say no."

Yesterday's vote comes nearly a year after students overwhelmingly voted for a referendum that expressed support for lessening policies. But Rachelle Bye, a sophomore mathematics major who cast the only vote against the resolution, questioned the validity of student election ballot referendums because few students vote and even fewer knew the referendum was on the ballot.

However, the more frequent opposition last night, questioned whether students should be punished the same regardless the amount of marijuana

"If someone had a pound sitting in their dorm room, that's a little too much for me," said junior electrical engineering major Matt Verghese.

Legislators eventually agreed to support whatever size distinctions Resident Life would make on punishments should they support the measure.

The resolution's sponsor, sophomore Brad Docherty, said the problem that exists with policy now is that it often yields inconsistent punishments for the same violation, an unfair practice the SGA has an obligation to correct.

"The way it's written right now is a blanket policy," said Docherty, a sophomore business and government and politics double major. "There is a difference between theoretical ... and what's done in practice."

"If it affects at least one student, its our responsibility to work against that policy," Docherty said.

Van Hoesen, of NORML, said the group is now working with Grandner on the issue and hopes to use the SGA vote as a springboard to boast students' approval of their cause.

"Its a good first step toward publicizing the issue and getting people to talk about it," she said. "It's important to open that wormhole."

Newshawk: CoZmO -
Source: The Diamondback (MD)
Author: Steven Overly
Copyright: 2007 The Diamondback
Website: The Diamondback
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