Campus Group Advocating Marijuana Law Reform Denied Recognition by University President 3/27/98

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- Troy Dayton for DRCNet

The newly formed Rochester Cannabis Coalition (RCC), an organization dedicated to educating the public about the need for marijuana law reform, is being denied club recognition by the President of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on the grounds that it would "send the wrong message". While the club's constitution explicitly states that it does not condone drug use, RIT President, Albert Simone, claimed in a letter to RCC President, Shea Gunther, that "the recognition of the Rochester Cannabis Coalition as an official RIT club will be interpreted by students and the general public as RIT officially condoning the use of drugs on this campus."

"Simone is denying us because he does not agree with what we have to say. He does not want to send the wrong message, well, now he is sending the message that students cannot make decisions," stated Shea Gunther in a written response to the President's letter.

Two weeks ago, Shea Gunther met with President Simone and his advisor to discuss the matter. Shea left the meeting when his advisor asked "what's to stop a club from advocating date rape?" "They couldn't understand the difference between advocating a change in public policy, and advocating drug use. We were just going in circles," said Gunther.

Simone goes on to claim in the letter that recognizing the RCC will cause drug dealers who sell marijuana and other drugs to target RIT campus. The Week Online asked William McKee, the director of RIT University News Services if this assertion is backed up by experiences on any of the over twenty campuses that currently have recognized drug policy reform groups. He could not point to any evidence.

Richard Cowan, editor of Marijuana News, said that Simone's letter uses the costs of marijuana prohibition to justify its position. "It explicitly recognizes that marijuana is sold in the same distribution channels with hard drugs by criminal elements. It is cited as a reason not to recognize a group that advocates the only way to end it." The complete text of the letter is available at the Marijuana News site, http://www.marijuananews.com/.

The RCC is currently collecting signatures for a petition to reverse Simone's decision. "Most students take extreme offense to Dr. Simone's blatant overruling of the will of the students, even if they disagree with our goals," said Gunther. They are also drafting a letter to the Board of Trustees that has the power to overrule President Simone.

"The drug war depends upon stifling discussion of alternative policies. We are not going to give up. We will fight until we get recognition," said Gunther.

DRCNet is currently in discussions with the RCC as well as other activist groups to determine the most effective way to impact the situation. Please expect a DRCNet Alert on the topic in the coming week.

You can contact Shea Gunther at [email protected]. Students and other members of campus communities are invited to join our national campus-based drug policy discussion list. To do so, send a message to [email protected] with the line "join U-net" in the body of the message.

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