Marijuana legalization is a hot-button issue in America today. Debates about its medical benefits vary from state to state, and programs such as D.A.R.E. work toward keeping kids away from the leafy green substance. A few students at the College have decided that it’s time to throw their two cents into the mix and are attempting to start up a pro-legalization club on campus.
Sophomore history major Caitlin Kelleher and junior deaf education and history major Sarah Walsh started THC.NJ as a Facebook group before initiating their first interest session on Thursday, April 7 in the Brower Student Center. Kelleher said the club’s aim is to “open up a dialog on marijuana legalization.”
Walsh and Kelleher hope to align the club with Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, which, according to the site, is an “international grassroots network of students” that aims to “mobilize and empower 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.” There are currently chapters of SSDP at Rowan University and Rutgers University.
Among the topics the group discussed at the session was what they believe to be the unfairness of campus drug policy, which punishes marijuana users much more harshly than students caught with alcohol, regardless of their level of intoxication. They also talked about what Kelleher referred to as the “failed drug war,” believing that the legalization of marijuana would put the drug under government jurisdiction and would cut back the dangers of drug cartels and dealers.
The group hopes to raise awareness on campus through speakers, fundraising and documentaries.
“What we need is a little visibility, and for people to know it isn’t a fan club,” Kelleher said.
Despite the fact that the Facebook group membership currently hovers at approximately 89 members, only four individuals showed up to the meeting. This turnout, however, did not come as a surprise to Kelleher and Walsh.
“We didn’t expect anyone to come,” Kelleher said. “People are scared, and it’s a problem.”
Kelleher went on to explain that part of this fear is the social stigma associated with marijuana.
“I’m less worried about official or legal action and more worried about social backlash,” she explained, saying she fears that other students and professors will begin to see her as a “deadbeat” or a “stoner.”
For others, however, the fear of backlash went far beyond name-calling.
“I think I need an alias for this because I do want to teach in a public school one day,” one student said. Another agreed, saying, “I wouldn’t put my name down.”
Despite their interest in the ideals of the club, none of the students attending the meeting would sign the attendance list passed around, nor would they allow their names to be printed in The Signal.