NORML : Puff, puff, pass, vote

The biggest problem facing this country is not terrorism or social security, drugs or the economy. The biggest problem – the one which threatens more lives than any other – is apathy.

Thankfully, I have a solution to this problem.

In the November 2004 re-election of President Bush, less than half those in the 18 to 24 age group cast a vote. And for the 2005 general election, less than a third voted.

The students who didn’t visit the polls those days are the reason the average college graduate is $15,000 in debt. They are the reason we get stomped on by political officials at all levels of government.

But don’t go thinking, even for a second, that it’s the politicians’ fault, because it isn’t. They can’t be expected to answer to citizens who don’t vote.

Apathy is not only students not voting, it’s students not involved in the political process at all.

These people have no idea what city council is, let alone how the members of city council are elected or what decisions they make. I am sure many of them would fail to realize there are three levels of government.

Eighty percent of students I have talked to would have difficulty telling me what a referendum, a primary election, an ordinance, a levy or a mil is.

So, its not just students who don’t vote, even the ones who vote have little to no idea as to how government works.

One local politician put it best recently when he told me students are only concerned with beer and sex. And he is absolutely right.

Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll may be the best tools for motivating students to discover the incredible power they have as citizens.

The new student organization on campus, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is an excellent example of this concept.

It’s important to note at this point that you know nothing about marijuana. If you are opposed to legalization, you probably know less about marijuana than you do about mescaline or any other illicit drug for that matter.

People who support our current marijuana laws are robbing us of so much. The possibilities that could arise following the legalization of this harmless drug (in comparison to cigarettes and alcohol) are infinite.

The phrase I use most often with my friends is: “Legalizing marijuana would have a bigger effect than the creation of the Internet.” And, to me, it would.

Currently, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 6,000 people decide to smoke pot for the first time every single day. That same survey found about 18 million people had used marijuana in the last month.

If those 18 million people spend $10 a week on pot, the total amount of money they spend in a year is $9.3 billion. Therefore, legalization would cause an almost instantaneous increase in the per capita income of this country by at least $30, but probably much more.

Legalization would save taxpayers $15 billion a year. Industrial hemp farmers could make billions on their new, legalized crop, which has 50,000 different uses. Taxes set on marijuana would raise billions more for government spending on drug education/treatment/enforcement programs and the education budgets of the country.

More people would hold degrees because of the legalization of marijuana and that has dramatic, positive long-term effects on our economy.

Without legalization of marijuana, none of this is possible, even though millions of people currently use it illegally in this country and the wasteful “war on drugs” has done little to curb that use.

Students agree with these facts. There are literally thousands of students on campus who would legalize right now.

Unlike other so-called political student organizations like the College Republicans, College Democrats, Undergraduate Student Government and the Graduate Student Senate, BGSU NORML requires its official members be registered to vote.

Members of BGSU NORML are not your garden-variety political activists. In fact, many of them would not be involved in a political organization if it weren’t for BGSU NORML.

And there are a lot of people involved. Nearly one hundred students have attended a BGSU NORML meeting since it hit campus four weeks ago, making it one of the most popular student organizations on campus.

Next week, BGSU NORML will announce its plan for getting marijuana legalized in Bowling Green and in the process of getting it legalized they will involve thousands of normally apathetic students in local government.

When they win – and they most certainly will – then those students who passed such a law will be more aware of and more active in government.

Apathy problem solved.

Send comments to Matt Clark at [email protected].