|Photo: Dallas/Fort Worth NORML|
|Danielle Farley, chapter president, University of North Texas NORML, Denton, Texas|
There was an unusual sight on the University of North Texas campus recently — a “marijuana dispensary” staffed by members of UNT NORML.
Habitat for Humanity held their annual “Shak-a-Thon” on the UNT lawn campus again this year, and UNT NORML proudly displayed their dispensary while several students lived in it during the length of the event, a three-day, two-night sleep-out fundraiser to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Passersby donated to the shack they enjoyed the most — and whichever shack raises the most money wins.
“It was also a particularly poignant event for us, because we were trying top raise awareness about the housing policy,” said Danielle Farley, president of UNT NORML. “Kicking a student out of the dorms for marijuana possession with little or no notice could land them in a cardboard shack much like ours.”
“Our shack helped us collect almost 1400 signatures on our petition, which is not on the agenda for the UNT SGA’s special election,” Farley said. “We were amazed and so very thankful for all the community support we received.
“Every smile and thumbs-up by passing students only strengthened our confidence in our cause and the number of like-minded individuals on campus,” Farley said. “It helped open our eyes to the overwhelming network of supporters we have at our university and we feel so very lucky.”
UNT NORML meets this week with the Student Government Association in an effort to change the UNT Policy for first-time possession of marijuana to the same punishment as the first-time possession of alcohol.
“Marijuana has been proven, after all, to be a safer alternative to alcohol,” Farley said. “It’s time that North Texans learn the truth about marijuana.”
“Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is FAR safer than alcohol,” Farley said. “Yet most of the nation’s colleges and universities punish students far more for using marijuana than for using alcohol. In doing so, they are sending a dangerous message that fosters and perpetuates a ‘culture of alcohol’ on campuses nationwide, and drives students to drink rather than make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead.”
The economic plight of public education in Texas is not much different than it is elsewhere around the country. UNT will have to cut millions from it’s annual budget to make up for the lack of state funding and recently, the University announced it was raising tuition for students as a cost recovery measure.
Meanwhile, you have to question the priorities of state lawmakers, because Texas increases funding for prisons six times faster than it does for higher education.
Even with the lack of funding, UNT still has a policy that students found in possession of marijuana are subjected to arrest and must pay the penalty. Besides their new legal complications, they are discharged from their dorm rooms forcing some to seek shelter wherever they can find.
Last year, UNT Campus police arrested 61 students for drug related violations, most of whom were kicked out of school. In troubling economic times and in today’s reality, it’s difficult to ethically justify the expulsion of a student from a university for simple marijuana possession.
The economic loss to the university is tremendous because each student will no longer be paying for tuition, housing, books, or visiting any of the multitude of stores, shops, and carts around the campus. The loss to the student is even more tragic as they are no longer able to use any government backed student loan effectively ending most of their collegiate dreams.
UNT NORML says it is paving the way for future students at the university to have a second chance.
For more information about how to help your college or university change their marijuana policy, visit Safer Campuses, http://www.safercampuses.org.