Lessons From a Weed Activist

By Emma Way
Student Life Editor

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, Washington College got a visit from Michael Corriea, a lobbyist for the National Cannabis Industry Association and a self-proclaimed weed activist.

Corriea came to Chestertown as a sponsored guests of the Goldstein Program in Public Affairs to talk to Political Science students on the prospect of marijuana legalization. With weed being such a hot-button item with college students, it was no surprise to see such great attendance at the talk.

Through the NCIA, Correia serves as the director of government relations and as the pot industry’s first full-time lobbyist.

“Corriea has a unique perspective into the political world of the pot debate,” said senior Mattias Falcon. “He was pretty frank and got a lot of laughs from the students and was able to translate the debate in a way that seemed to resonate well with the student body.”

One aspect of Corriea’s talk was to educate students on the overarching marijuana legalization debate. He discussed the origin of weed as well as how the debate has shifted over time. In 1970 the Controlled Substances Act officially declared cannabis a schedule one drug meaning it “has a high potential for abuse” and that it “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment.”

Since then marijuana remains illegal at the federal level but has been made legal in Colorado and Washington, decriminalized in 14 states, and legalized for medical use in 20 states.

According to the Washington Post, a Gallup poll in 1969 found that only 12 percent of the country supported the legalization of marijuana, whereas in 2013 that number increased to 58 percent.

Legalizing marijuana poses an interesting question for college campus as to whether or not the campus would permit the possession or use of marijuana. Colleges like Colorado College  and the University of Colorado have not changed their policy since Colorado’s Amendment 64 to legalize cannabis went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year.

According to Colorado College’s website, they are committed, “to providing the finest liberal arts education in the country and we believe that marijuana use conflicts with this mission. Additionally, marijuana use is illegal under federal law and permitting its use at Colorado College would violate the Drug-Free Schools.”

If cannabis is legalized at the federal level, many questions arise with what college campuses like WC would do and how that would affect the campus community. “I don’t think it would be any more dangerous to have weed on campus than alcohol. Both substances are already very prevalent on college campuses and…[many] of the drinkers here on campus are drinking illegally and underage,” said senior Chastain Shenk.

“There’s an extensive Alcohol EDU class before we enter college so once more research is done on the negative and positive effects of marijuana I would think we would need to see an Education Class for weed as a safe preemptive measure,” she said.

Certainly with the prospect of more states looking towards the future of legalizing marijuana, the federal government will also have to take a second look at their policies. Along with changes in policies there are variety of positive and negative effects that could appear.

“With…[many] students living out of state…even if pot was legal in Maryland it probably wouldn’t be in most students’ home states and could impact students looking for employment after college which might require drug testing,” said Falcon. “It could also lower some of the students inhibitions to do the best work that they can.”

Limited research has been on marijuana due to restrictions from the Drug Enforcement Agency, according to Correia, but many students still recognize the possible benefits of legalizing marijuana in addition to the negative effects.

Falcon said, “It could also allow students to be more creative and help them to gain an artistic outlet.”

“I do not think having marijuana on campus would propose a more dangerous situation than the freshmen I have seen over the years rushed to the ER for alcohol poisoning during their first week,” said Shenk. “I would just hope proper research is done before legalization goes nation wide.”

Photo courtesy of cheeseunderground.blogspot.com

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