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Drug Punishments at UCF May Change

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
A student caught with marijuana at the University of Central Florida could suffer the same punishment as one caught drinking underage if the Student Government Association succeeds in a request to revise the student code of conduct.

Such a rule change wouldn't affect criminal penalties, only campus censure of student violators.

"We do not want to endorse weed; we just want it to be treated as alcohol, in which possession is a misdemeanor," said Andrew Cadieux, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policies, one of two student groups pushing the policy change.

Cadieux, a former resident assistant in a campus dormitory, said that standard policy in dormitories is to call the police if marijuana possession is suspected of a resident. The result is punishment both by the state and the school. By contrast, students younger than 21 caught drinking are made to dispose of the alcohol and reported.

A 58-percent majority of UCF students voted last year to support the marijuana policy change, allowing the student government to request a change to the school's "Golden Rule" student code, a change requiring approval by the Golden Rule Review Committee. If a majority of that committee approves the change, they forward it to the UCF administration for final approval. That committee had voted just last month on the same matter, tying 3-3 with one student member absent. The student government is making a new request, hoping for a majority vote in favor of the change.

UCF isn't alone in pushing for leniency with marijuana policies. The University of Colorado at Boulder has already equalized punishment for students violating marijuana and alcohol rules.

The national marijuana advocacy group Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation - SAFER - promotes research indicating that marijuana causes less dependence and intoxication than alcohol.

"If school catches you with pot, you lose all financial aid," said Travis Sturgill-Trahan, a finance major. "Being in the dorms, I've seen friends get much more in trouble if they were caught with weed than if they were caught with alcohol.

"With alcohol you only get slaps on the wrist because you get many chances."

Two student marijuana-advocacy groups are pushing for UCF's drug policy change: the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - NORML - and Students for Sensible Drug Policies.

Brendon Rivard, president of NORML at UCF, says current drug policy puts students at greater risk. "If you are caught with pot you will lose your housing contract, you would be on academic probation, which puts holds in your account, and you will lose all financial aid and not be able to apply for them anymore," said Rivard, who is also the SGA director of student advocacy. By punishing students more heavily for marijuana use, "we are driving students to drink alcohol, which is extremely dangerous," Rivard said.

Some UCF students still have concerns about the legality of marijuana, such as Alex Cruz, a molecular biology and microbiology major. "Although alcohol may or may not have side effects that are as powerful as marijuana, marijuana is still an illegal drug by federal standards and the penalties should be held to those standards," Cruz said.

Criminal justice major Gaby Guevara said the proposal could help lower alcohol consumption on campuses, but "still, marijuana is an illegal drug," she said, "There should be a trial period to see how it works."

Changing UCF's marijuana stance would be a big step for NORML, whose ultimate goal is to legalize marijuana in the United States. "We want the consumption to be regulated," Rivard said, "in order to decriminalize and start being safer."

News Hawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Winter Park/Maitland Observer (FL)
Contact: alexb@observernewspapers.com
Copyright: 2009 Community Media Holdings, LLC.
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Author: Sharon Weaver
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