By Dion Markgraaff
This fall is the greatest opportunity of our lives with the vote to Tax and Regulate Cannabis, Proposition 19. Students must rise up to this occasion and contribute everything they/you have to make sure this law passes. This is the time for Generation Y to live up to their name and question â€“ why?
Why imprison ourselves to the greatest degree on the planet by attempting to keep us from the worldâ€™s most useful plant, cannabis sativa, which makes the best paper, clothes, plastic, food, construction material, medicine, and is also the safest recreational choice to consume. Students must help shift the current paradigms.
The youth of today bear a double-edged sword. They are aware of opportunities that come with the accumulation of knowledge, but are trapped by the chips (of waste/shit) left on the table by proceeding generations.
Students have a unique situation and the ability to make change happen. What students lack in money they make up for with time, energy and creativity that no other class of people possess. Whether Prop. 19 passes or fails, the process is a great exercise that will strengthen our voice and will. Even a theoretical utopian society would be in constant exercise of the people in it.
There will be overwhelming benefits for all institutions. Justice and health will obviously improve, but so will education since money is the key. A pragmatic policy towards cannabis will bring the state billions in tax revenue, while saving billions at the same time.
The same double benefit will go directly towards students, giving them a safer choice for a recreational drug with less risk.Â They will not lose access to sports or risk expulsion from school for â€œdirtyâ€ pee, and will be less likely to go to prison; with the added benefit that their parents and loved ones will not be afraid to use this valuable resource when it is needed medically.
Challenge everyone you know to make sure they are going to vote yes on Prop. 19. Students can contribute by doing their next school paper on cannabis. Any book report, research paper and class debate should be based on cannabis to help educate and empower fellow classmates.Â This coming November election will be like no other in history. The US has spent $1 trillion dollars over the last 40 years opposing this plant.Â Helping to pass The Tax and Regulate Cannabis, Proposition 19, is the greatest opportunity ofÂ our lives.
Time for Some Action
Today there are many different groups working on making change and fighting for our rights. These organizations are varied in their mission. Some are geared towards all drugs, like the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), some focus on cannabis, like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and others only work with medical cannabis, like Americans for Safe Access (ASA).
As these noble associations have grown and evolved over the years the need to develop more structure for students has been addressed by a new breed of even more focused action groups.
The following are great organizations you can get involved with.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
NORML is one of the oldest organizations working on changing cannabis laws for recreational use for all adults. This group has had a reputation of being a legal referral service for victims of crazy cannabis laws. Anyone who has had trouble with the law knows most of the battle for justice is finding a â€œsympatheticâ€ and knowledgeable lawyer (NORML also has great national conferences that are very fun and informative).
Starting a school chapter is a great way to harness the energy locally and make changes to your area collectively. Some of the best chapters of this organization are based out of various universities across the nation, especially in Florida.
National NORML also has a Washington D.C. intern program, which is an opportunity to work and gain experience in the hotbed of national politics.
Locally â€“ there is a very good well-established â€œCaliforniaâ€ NORML, â€œOrange Countyâ€Â NORML and a new â€œSan Diego Countyâ€Â NORML.
Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER)
The organization, Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), has a mission â€œto educate the public about the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to both the user and society.â€ This is an important message to our alcohol based culture in general, but especially to our youth who shape our futures. Todayâ€™s college campuses are based on alcohol consumption.
SAFER was founded in 2005, following the high-profile alcohol overdose deaths of two Colorado college students: Sam Spady at Colorado State University (CSU), and Lynn â€œGordieâ€ Bailey at the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU). The organization recognizes that these students would still be alive today had they been using cannabis instead of alcohol and that their universities drive students to drink due to more severe penalties for cannabis use.
Mason Tvert, executive director and founder of SAFER, said the legal status of alcohol sends the message that itâ€™s safer to use than cannabis.Â He is co-author (along with Steve Fox, Paul Armentano) of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, published in 2009. Alcohol use can shut down the body, result in death, and causes 35,000 fatalities annually. Though cannabis cannot cause death, it is still projected as worse.
SAFER has an off shoot of their organization called the â€œCampuses Initiative.â€ The campaigns message is simple, â€œItâ€™s time colleges and universities stop encouraging college students to â€˜drink responsiblyâ€™ and start encouraging them to â€˜party responsiblyâ€™.â€ This last spring, the group organized students at more than 80 colleges and universities across 34 states and held rallies, where students called on their respective schools to â€œstop driving them to drinkâ€ and urged them to allow cannabis as a safer recreational alternative to alcohol.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) are the most active youth group in resisting the drug war. The SSDP website states that the organization â€œis an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.Â SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive drug war policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.â€
As far as which drug the group supports, their website says, â€œStudents for Sensible Drug Policy neither encourages nor condemns drug use. Rather, we seek to reduce the harms caused by drug abuse and drug policies. As young people, we strive toward a just and compassionate society where drug abuse is treated as a health issue instead of a crime. We recognize that the real harms of drug abuse are not adequately addressed by current policies and we advocate measures that would effectively help those who develop drug problems. Yet, we also believe that individuals must ultimately be allowed to make decisions for themselves as long as their actions do not infringe upon anyone elseâ€™s freedoms or safety.â€
The association is self-aware, â€œbecause the War on Drugs has historically been justified as necessary to protect youth, and it is our responsibility as young people to stop this harmful war from being waged in our names any longer. As scholars, we seek solutions to societyâ€™s drug problems through focused research, honest dialogue, and informed debate, instead of unquestioned extremism, punishment, and propaganda.â€
The best organized youth group in America, SSDP, â€œis comprised of student chapters all across the country. Any student anywhere can start a chapter. While SSDP has a variety of national campaigns and actions that everyone can participate in, chapters are also encouraged to work on those issues that have the most traction in their own communities. Annually, SSDP members convene for a national conference. There, students acquire essential activist knowledge and skills.â€
Just Say Now
A new and timely organization students can participate in is â€œJust Say Now,â€ a huge campaign to legalize cannabis across the nation. The associationâ€™s effort is spearheaded by two groups, Firedoglake and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).
Firedoglake is a progressive blog and activist hub dedicated to bringing greater transparency and accountability to government. Together, the two organizations are working to organize an effective online/offline movement to help pass marijuana legalization initiatives currently on the ballot for November 2010.
The groupâ€™s mission statement says, â€œOur nationâ€™s prohibition about marijuana has cost the country billions, resulted in a massive increase in incarceration rates, funded criminal syndicates, yet failed to stop people from using marijuana. It is a failed, costly and misguided policy that must end now. We are a group of individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and political leans that share the simple conviction that the marijuana prohibition must end. That is why we are promoting the legalization and sensible regulation of marijuana through grassroots organizing and direct democratic action.â€