By Michael Walsh
CCSU’s NORML chapter will be rallying on campus and taking over the student center circle on Tuesday, April 20 for its inaugural 4/20 hemp and marijuana educational event.
NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, is a non-profit group seeking to make the responsible use of cannabis by adults no longer subject to penalty. The CCSU chapter is currently the only chapter in the state of Connecticut.
“Our short term goal is to educate,” said Larry Vitko, the club’s vice president.
NORML plans to utilize the all-day event to help educate the public on the benefits of hemp and marijuana.
“Knowledge is power. There is so much false information out there right now,” said Ross Martowski, president of CCSU NORML. “There are a lot of educational sites out there that are disgusting.”
“We will have merchandise but we’re also going to have pamphlets,” said Martowski. “We’ll have tons of information, more information than you could ever imagine, especially on industrial hemp. We have updated reports from NORML for 2010 for clinical apps.”
The group also plans to have petitions ready to be signed that will in turn be handed to both school administration and politicians in the local governments.
“As far as the big picture goes, we just want reform. The decriminalization bill 476 is going through. That’s a big thing,” said Martowski.
Bill 476 would make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana punishable only by an infraction or fine. Currently in the state of Connecticut, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana can end in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail for the first offense. A second offense is considered a felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.
“The police will argue that not much will happen with the penalties, which is actually pretty true,” said Martowski. “You might get some community service or something like that, but the record itself – you’ll lose federal funding. You won’t be able to get any state jobs with a drug charge on your record.”
Aside from the decriminalization of marijuana and the reduction of penalties for those caught with it, CCSU NORML is also focusing on the use of medicinal marijuana.
“Many, many times [marijuana is] a safer form of medicine. A lot of these patients are dying. We give them morphine which is worse for you. It’s a condensed opiate. What’s heroin? A condensed opiate,” said Martowski. “Yeah they do other little things to it, but it’s far more horrible. It just destroys everything. It’s extremely addictive. Why do we have that legal when you can prescribe marijuana instead?”
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, medicinal marijuana exists already in the form of Marinol. Typically used in pill form, Marinol is a synthetic THC that according to the DEA’s website, “has been found to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients and to assist with loss of appetite with AIDS patients.”
The club will argue that Marinol will still get users high and is far more dangerous because it is a synthetic and isolated product compared to the natural state of cannabis.
“When you make Marinol with just the fake THC, which is a problem of its own, it will cause problems because it’s fake,” said Martowski.
The only lingering worry for the group is how the event might be perceived by both those inside and outside of marijuana culture.
“I don’t want to make it seem like this is just a pot culture event, a giant rally where everyone is going to be smoking weed,” said Martowski. “At the same time I don’t want to make it seem like some boring educational event where only three people will show up.”
Martowski said he is seeking a balance between the professional, educational route and the more fun, pot culture route that is commonly brought to mind when the date 4/20 is mentioned.
“I’m just afraid that it’s maybe going to defer some of the other people who are more politically involved from showing up or more professionally involved or even people who are now just starting getting involved with it who actually have the bravery to go do stuff like this,” said Martowski. “And now they’re not going to do it because they think it will be just a bunch of potheads sitting there.”
CCSU NORML already knows what most of the entertainment will consist of. CCSU’s own radio station, WFCS 107.7, will be outside covering the event, playing pot culture music. Also scheduled is a magic show from 4 to 5 p.m. Martowski said the art club has been in contact with NORML and will be there to promote their upcoming mural slam. They also hope to have a few vendors on campus to sell merchandise.
The event will begin at 9 a.m. and run throughout the day until 7 p.m. A rain date has been set for Thursday, April 22.
Section 1. Subsection (a) of section 21a-267 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2010):
(a) No person shall use or possess with intent to use drug paraphernalia, as defined in subdivision (20) of section 21a-240, to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain or conceal, or to ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body, any controlled substance as defined in subdivision (9) of section 21a-240. Any person who violates any provision of this subsection shall [be guilty of a class C misdemeanor] have committed an infraction.
Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2010) Any person who possesses or has under his control less than one ounce of a cannabis-type substance, except as authorized in chapter 420b of the general statutes, shall have committed an infraction.
Sec. 3. Subsection (c) of section 21a-279 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2010):
(c) Any person who possesses or has under his control any quantity of any controlled substance other than a narcotic substance, or a hallucinogenic substance other than marijuana or who possesses or has under his control one ounce or more but less than four ounces of a cannabis-type substance, except as authorized in this chapter, for a first offense, may be fined not more than one thousand dollars or be imprisoned not more than one year, or be both fined and imprisoned; and for a subsequent offense, may be fined not more than three thousand dollars or be imprisoned not more than five years, or be both fined and imprisoned.