Student group raises support for marijuana

Travis Reed

After having been arrested twice for possession of marijuana, University Institute of Technology freshman Ben Shaffer decided to do something about it.
Shaffer and a handful of students convened Thursday at a University Avenue classroom building for the first meeting of a University chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a national group that’s been around since 1970.
The meeting was marked in part by a minimalist celebration of April 20, often referred to counter-culturally as 420. The number is widely recognized as universally important to marijuana smokers and rumored to be the Los Angeles police code for “marijuana in progress” violations, but NORML chairman Jason Samuelson said the concurrence was not the only reason for the meeting.
Samuelson, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore, said the group is focusing on trying to raise support, getting a feel for how large a member base they’ll be working with, and preparing for activities like painting the Washington Avenue Bridge and participating in the campus activities fair next fall.
Shaffer, the University NORML treasurer, and two other University students registered the organization as an official student group two weeks ago. He said they didn’t have any problems getting the group certified, and a Campus Involvement Center faculty member “seemed almost happy” to welcome NORML as a University-recognized club.
Shaffer said NORML is in favor of marijuana legalization because they believe it can be beneficially utilized industrially, medicinally and recreationally, but he also adds, “The main reason is that it’s so fun to smoke.”
The meeting was less an inauguration than a re-convention of a University NORML chapter.
“The last time NORML was big was 10 years ago, and it was centered at the University of Minnesota,” Samuelson said, adding that he’s been told the group used to hold their meetings in Northrop Auditorium at the height of its popularity.
Attendee Thomas Stewart was a University student in the 1970s and has since returned after a more than 20-year hiatus. Though never a formal NORML member, Stewart said he was at times involved with the group, and that some NORML functions were inundated with marijuana cigarettes and often focused more on drug usage than policy.
But Samuelson maintains that drug use at meetings is a thing of the past.
“We want to have a clear head when we’re meeting,” he said. “We promote only responsible use of cannabis.”

Travis Reed covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.