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Legalize it

Smoking marijuana is more popular in America than surfing the Internet, according to the British Broadcasting Company Web site.

The popularity of the drug in the United States has inspired the mobilization of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws.

Last night a group of students met for the second week in Olscamp Hall, and worked on the consolidation of the Bowling Green State University chapter of NORML.

At the meeting, students discussed the mission of the group, and their hope to educate the rest of BGSU to break down stereotypes, and to work toward legalization of the drug in Bowling Green.

Charece Sims, a University student who attended the meeting, said she is active in the organization because she disagrees with the way the drug is portrayed by the media.

“The stereotypes associated with marijuana are disproved by the number of users who are intelligent, successful, and responsible,” she said.

But the group has more to combat than stereotypes. Some medical studies hurt NORML’s case.

Research suggests that marijuana may be psychologically addictive. It has shown that heavy users can display aggressive impulses if their supply suddenly stops. Also, in debates over legalization, those in opposition state that cannabis may be a ‘gateway’ drug to more harmful substances like heroin and cocaine.

Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2004 showed that long-term marijuana use have a dulling effect on the brain, impacting memory and attention span and ability to learn. The study analyzed 51 long-term users, 51 shorter-term users and 33 non-users.

But NORML supporters say there are many arguments, and even factual evidence, to support their organization and combat negative perceptions of marijuana.

NORML points out that cannabis is less addictive than amphetamines, tobacco or alcohol, and does less harm to the body.

Lisa Hursey, another student at the meeting, said she doesn’t understand why it’s illegal in the first place.

“When I look at the destructive effects of cigarettes and alcohol, both of which are legal, and it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

The effects of marijuana are also beneficial to sufferers of various medical conditions, including cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma, and actually has an effect on the heart that is similar to the effects of exercise. It may be just as good for the heart as going to the gym, according to a 2001 study by the BBC.

Since 1973, 12 state legislatures have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. In each of these states, marijuana users no longer face jail time – or in most cases, arrest or criminal records – for the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana.

A study done by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1999 supports the argument made by NORML, showing that there was no relationship with decriminalization of marijuana and increased use. A similar study conducted by the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2001 brought the same results.

“I came to this meeting because during the hour that it takes place, 90 people are arrested, and I want to see that changed,” said Keith Rose, another student at the meeting.

The arrests can be costly as well – 60,000 individuals are behind bars for marijuana offenses at a cost to taxpayers of $1.2 billion per year, according to the Federation of American Scientists’ Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin. NORML argues that taxpayers dollars are being misused, and could potentially be allotted to something more beneficial to the nation.

NORML plans to meet 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights in Olscamp.

And group members say they’ll continue coming together to work toward event planning, research, promotion of education and eventually, decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.

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