NORML SA drug sanction reform opposed by administrators

University officials said they do not support a Student Association resolution that calls for more lenient sanctions for marijuana use.

Last week the SA Senate voted for the University to examine a less-stringent sanction for students guilty of marijuana violations. GW’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws introduced the resolution, arguing that the illegal substance is less dangerous than alcohol.

Some University administrators said there is no reason to change the sanctions.

“I would not be in support of changing the current policy as it has continually had a positive impact on the University community for many years,” said Tara Woolfson, director of Student Judicial Services, which administers sanctions to students who are found in violation of University policy.

SA President Lamar Thorpe said that he is in support of reducing University sanctions for marijuana use, but cannot support the resolution because it does not effectively outline the need for the proposed changes. He vetoed the legislation on Tuesday.

Thorpe, a senior, explained that he believes marijuana use on campus is dangerous, however; he thinks individuals using the drug should be offered help, not punished.

Thorpe said he plans to work with GW NORML to produce a modified resolution.

President of GW NORML, Greg Hersh, said he feels the administration is unwilling to listen to students’ opinions.

Hersh and NORML leaders believe the current marijuana policy is harming students by reducing their chances of receiving financial aid and taking away campus housing. The Senate accepted the resolution by an 11-7 vote after hours of debate.

“To blatantly disregard the will of the students, including our most powerful body, the Student Association, shows that we have very little power over our own existence here at GW,” said Hersh, a junior.

He added that a penalty such as losing University housing, which is the minimum sanction for a drug violation along with required participation in an education program and a $50 fine, is ineffective in decreasing drug use.

“Eviction from housing isn’t even related to the drug violation as a penalty like drug education classes (with accurate information from CADE) would be,” Hersh said.

Some professors, however, expressed support for NORML’s position. Sociology Professor William Chambliss specializes in drug abuse and drug laws and said the idea of reforming marijuana sanctions both nationally and at universities is not new and has gained support in some places. He said when some countries reduced drug penalties, the usage and corresponding crime generally decreased.

“The whole idea that we are still punishing people for marijuana is an absurd anachronism,” Chambliss said.

He pointed out that many states and universities such as those in California have more liberal polices, essentially decriminalizing marijuana.

GW’s Code of Student Conduct, which was approved in 1995, defines the University’s drug and alcohol policy. Minor changes and amendments were added since that time, Woolfson said.

In order for the Code of Conduct to be changed, a review must be called and approved by Dean of Students Linda Donnels. University bodies such as the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees would then examine the resolution, Woolfson added.

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