COSO should recognize the Dartmouth Hemp Alliance

by Ethan Ostrow | 5/12/93 10:00pm

Cannabis hemp is growing at Dartmouth. Not literally, of course, but with the recently submitted appeal for recognition filed by the Dartmouth Hemp Alliance, another national movement has found its way into the College forum. Hopefully its stay will not be a brief one.

As the Council on Student Organizations deliberates over the petition, the fate of the hemp legalization movement across the country is by no means imperiled. Yet it would be a shame to exclude this issue from our "official" attention on campus before this proposed group has an opportunity to enlighten us.

The Alliance claims to have information which can educate our community about the genuine "social and personal costs and benefits" of the hemp plant.

The official recognition of this group and its platform would in the worst possible case provide an interesting diversion, but it also might produce some startling discoveries. To deny the Dartmouth community at least the opportunity to learn more about hemp is a resounding endorsement for ignorance.

Proponents of the Alliance are armed with an argument that has been refined throughout decades of opposition to the illegalization of pot.

For example, considering the existence of a pro-marijuana group at the College is enough to inspire comical images of a kiosk on the Green during orientation week distributing flyers which harp on the salubrious effects of pot smoking.

However, the classic supporter of hemp legalization would tell you that this should be the cause of neither laughter nor alarm.

The phrase "for recreational purposes," as benign and ambiguous as it is, usually designates one purpose of a pro-organization in favor of cannabis.

Claiming support of medical and industrial applications are popular positions to assume, and the Vermont Civil Coalition Against Prohibition even endorses some cutting-edge uses such as hemp for hats, ties and cooking oil.

The Vermont Civil Coalition Against Prohibition apparently represents to Vermont pro-hemp forces today what Al Capone represented to Chicago speakeasies in the 1920's.

This self-called "State of Vermont Grassroots Party" offers support with a kind of rebellion-from-authority flavor, something very discernible in its slightly informal and extremely belligerent monthly newsletter "Hemp Action Update." The April 1993 edition advertises events and presents anecdotes about unfortunate pot-smoking folk who have suffered under the "fascist" anti-marijuana regime.

Similarly, the Hoosier Cannabis Re-legalization Coalition exists at Indiana University in support of hemp. This group has tried to discredit as inconclusive or incomplete some major studies condemning marijuana. "We believe that truth is our strongest weapon," states the group in an electronic mail message which is intended to set the record straight on marijuana use and its effects.

The point is not to evaluate, for I'm afraid an evaluation of these existing groups would yield a negative impression of the hemp legalization movement. It is important to consider rather that Dartmouth lacks something that other places have, that the existence of a hemp alliance on campus will have a positive impact provided we go about it correctly.

If the Council on Student Organizations gives the proposal appropriate scrutiny and grants the group official status, the move would be made in the faith that the Dartmouth Hemp Alliance would adhere to high standards of responsibility and prudence.

The challenge would then be left to the twenty-six member organization to teach us something within the context of honesty and forthrightness to be expected by the Dartmouth community.