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NORML Panel Calls For Marijuana Legalization


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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 Columbia.

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 contamination.

"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."

NewsHawk: MedicalNeed: 420 MAGAZINE
Author: Madeline O'Leary
Source: themaneater.com
Copyright: 2011 The Maneater Student Newspaper
Contact: The Maneater – Contact us
Website: The Maneater – NORML panel calls for marijuana legalization
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