As DRCNet reported two weeks ago (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/210.html#oussdp), an Ohio University disciplinary committee was poised to recommend harsh new campus penalties for marijuana possession when students got wind of the move and an uproar ensued. Led by members of the campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org), the students demanded a chance to have their say before the committee acted.

The student activism, along with criticism in the local media, caused the university's Review and Standards Committee to back down on November 19, when it announced it would postpone a vote on the proposal until January 7. Ohio U is on break between now and January 3.

Putting the best face on a hasty retreat under fire, OU Director of Judiciaries Judy Piercy told the Athens News the committee was seeking more input. "We decided it is really important to hear from everybody and so we're going to wait," she said.

Under the proposed amendment to the campus code, simple possession of marijuana, which is considered a misdemeanor under Ohio law, would be treated the same as possession of hard drugs or other felony crimes and could result in expulsion from the university. Currently, the maximum penalty is a disciplinary suspension.

"This is a step in the right direction," SSDP campus vice-president Abby Bair told DRCNet, "but the proposal is still before the committee. We need to have the student senate pass a resolution condemning harsher drug penalties here at OU in general," she said. "The vast majority of student senators oppose this proposal."

Student leaders had demanded and received a meeting with OU Vice-President for Student Affairs Richard Carpinelli, who is chair of the Review and Standards Committee, and who had been the most outspoken advocate of the harsher penalties. At the meeting, said Bair, Carpinelli informed them of the decision to delay the vote.

"They were going to decide this now and implement it in December while the students are gone," said Bair. "Now we have the chance to get organized. We're lobbying to get a position on the review board and we're calling for the voting to be open -- right now it's a closed vote. We are working with student senators and student groups to present the administration with a strong coalition against this proposal," Bair said.

The students have won a chance to address the board, Bair added. "We will explain to them what SSDP is, whom we represent, and what our concerns are," she said. "We will tell them why we oppose this and show them that other student groups oppose this as well."

Not just student groups. According to Bair, the DRCNet story on Ohio U. two weeks ago had an impact. "Every since you put that story in, we've been getting letters to the editor in the local papers every day -- from all over the country!"

Even the editor of the Athens News, Terry Smith, joined the fray, writing: "One disturbing possibility is that Carpinelli and his committee really do believe that pot-smoking students are a danger to the institution and ought to be eradicated. If that's the case, it makes me wonder what they've been smoking for the past thirty years. As a sentient human being during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, I couldn't help noticing that a lot of people smoking marijuana, including many who attended college at OU, went on to successful careers in a bewildering array of endeavors. Many of them are parents of OU students, and others, I daresay, are highly regarded faculty and administrators at this institution. Doesn't it seem bizarre to potentially expel a modern-day college student for an infraction that thousands upon thousands of OU alumni as well as many of the students' current professors routinely committed and may still commit today?"

But that's not all. The committee is also proposing to enact tougher penalties for drug paraphernalia, including even unused items, said Bair. "We're researching the paraphernalia, we're very concerned about that as well," she said. "Any paraphernalia would be a violation."

Bair and her fellow activists still have a fight ahead, but they are rearing to go. "We only have five days after winter break until that January 7 meeting," she said, "but we'll be there and we'll be organized."

-- END --
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Issue #212, 11/23/01 Washington, DC: Any Drug-Exposed Newborn Would Be Seized Under Proposed Local Legislation | Tulia: 1999 Bust's Legacy Lingers in Legal Battles | SSDP Plans National Day of Action on Hemp Food Ban | Britain's First Cannabis Cafe Raided By Police, But Reopens to Business as Usual Amidst Calls for More Cafes | Ohio University Students Win Delay of Vote on Marijuana Penalties | Rep. Souder Explains Dutch Drug Policy: "They Don't Have a Moral Base" | Mexican Official Denounces Legalization, Acting US Drug Czar Cheers | Is Taliban Heroin Worse than Northern Alliance Heroin? | Errata: Medical Marijuana Bill Cosponsors | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
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