Pro-marijuana group seeks official status
A student group dedicated to fighting for the legalization of hemp, the plant used to produce marijuana, has petitioned the College for recognition as an official organization.
The Dartmouth Hemp Alliance and its adviser, English Professor Tom Luxon, have submitted a petition to the Council on Student Organizations. Director of Student Activities Tim Moore said the petition is under consideration.
Cannabis hemp is the full name of the plant. Marijuana is the bud or leaves of the hemp plant.
The alliance's constitution, which was filed with its petition, lists one of the organization's purposes as promoting "the passage of legislation ... to allow the domestic production and use of cannabis hemp for industrial, medical and recreational purposes."
Another goal of the organization is "to promote informed discussion in the Dartmouth community about the social and personal costs and benefits of the use of cannabis hemp for recreational purposes," according to the constitution.
The alliance plans to educate the College community about hemp and needs COSO recognition to bring speakers to the College.
Luxon said the group asked him to be its adviser. COSO requires every recognized organization to have an adviser.
"I couldn't think of a reason not to be their adviser," Luxon said. "I think that this group has a right to be College-recognized and COSO requires that they have an adviser."
Luxon, who is up for tenure this year, said he thinks his association with the alliance will not effect the tenure process.
"Their purpose, as I understand it, is to become an information resource for the decriminalization of hemp," Luxon said.
Sean Donahue '96, an spokesman for the alliance, said hemp can be used to make paper and fibers in clothing and used as an environmentally safe fuel. He said it has many medicinal purposes such as treating asthma, glaucoma and pain caused by chemotherapy and AIDS treatment.
"There is a lot of misinformation and hysteria about hemp and its uses and roles in society," Donahue said. "The plant was outlawed for irrational reasons."
Donahue said the majority of misinformation concerns health problems commonly associated with pot smoking.
"There has never been a conclusive study that shows that normal amounts of cannabis smoke will cause damage to the brain or reproductive systems," Donahue said.
Donahue said the group will not encourage people to smoke marijuana.
"We want to work within the system to change the laws which outlaw hemp for industrial and recreational purposes," he said..
"We are not taking a position of endorsing pot. If people choose to smoke pot now, then they have to face the consequences. I think it should be legal to smoke pot," he said.
Donahue declined to comment on whether he smokes marijuana.
"It's not really any different than trying to change traffic laws," Donahue said. "We simply disagree with the government's position."
"I would not feel comfortable advising a group that promotes criminal activity," Luxon said. "But I would support a group that is working to decriminalize" hemp use.
Luxon said "the only problem with marijuana use right now is that it is illegal."
"I have smoked marijuana," Luxon said. "But I can't remember the last time I got high."
The association's 26 members include students from all four undergraduate classes and some recent College alumni.
Nine members contacted from the list said they supported the decriminalization of hemp for recreational use.
"I'm sure that some members of the group smoke pot, but I don't think that is germane to the issue," Blake Wentworth '95 said. Wentworth is a member of the association's Executive Advisory Board.