Weed Watch

Students Want Pot Equality

UT students passed a nonbinding referendum on March 1 that calls for "equalizing" penalties associated with pot and alcohol use. The initiative, which passed with 64% of the vote, calls for penalties for on-campus pot use to be "no greater than the penalties currently imposed" for on-campus drinking. The newly created Texas branch of the Colorado-based Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation organized the UT referendum; the SAFER movement – which began in the wake of two alcohol-related student deaths at the University of Colorado – is an educational campaign designed to highlight the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol use. Alcohol, they argue, is by far more harmful; no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose, while alcohol is consistently linked not only to overdose deaths but also to a host of other risky and violent behaviors. To date, SAFER has been behind the successful passage of five equalization measures – including recent successful votes at UT and Florida State University, and in Denver's November municipal election.

In other cannabis-related news, a bill legalizing medi-pot use for New Mexico patients died on the state House floor Feb. 21, on the last day of a 30-day special legislative session. The bill (SB 258) passed swiftly through the state Senate but ran into trouble in the House where Speaker Ben Lujan assigned the measure to the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, whose members, the Drug Policy Alliance reports, were predisposed to kill the measure. Bill supporters were successful in getting the legislation transferred for a hearing and passed by the House Judiciary Committee, but a Republican filibuster on the House floor ran down the legislative clock on the last day of the session, killing the bill. This is the second year in a row that a medi-pot measure has failed to pass through the New Mexico Legislature.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, the Marijuana Policy Project is again ramping up efforts to legalize the possession and use of small amounts of pot by adults over 21. The tax-and-regulate proposal would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults, in their homes, and would allow the state to license and regulate marijuana growers, distributors, and retailers. Meanwhile, the measure would increase criminal penalties for providing pot to a minor and for driving while intoxicated. In 2002, a similar MPP-backed proposal – which capped possession at three ounces and did not increase penalties for criminal violations – lost at the polls with just 39% of voters in favor of the measure. But backers of the new-and-improved proposal feel confident it will pass in November. "It's a different petition this time," Neal Levine, executive director of the Nevada Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, told the Las Vegas Sun. "We've made sure it has sensible safeguards built in." (For more, go to www.regulatemarijuana.org.)

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