Last night, a national organization aiming to reform marijuana laws hosted its first Rally in the Valley discussion in 101 Thomas to raise awareness about legal concerns involving marijuana.
“We want to inform people about this issue and have some positive conversations about the marijuana issue,” Jason Bundy, co-president of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said.
Bundy told about 30 people that NORML is a resource for those who need legal advice, as well as an organization that promotes legislation to reform marijuana laws.
Andrew Shubin, a criminal defense attorney, was present to give legal advice concerning marijuana laws.
Shubin explained that a school zone has much harsher consequences for felonies than any other area.
“If you are within 1,000 feet of any part of Penn State University, whether it’s the 18th hole of the golf course, a garage that Penn State owns, the high school or a playground, that’s a school zone,” he said. “That’s basically all of State College.”
The mandatory minimum sentence for possession of marijuana is two to four years in a school zone, compared to probation to one month anywhere else, Shubin said.
“That’s the difference one foot can make,” he said.
Shubin gave advice on what to do if confronted by a police officer.
“Be courteous. … The first thing you should do is assert your right to counsel,” he said. “And without your consent, an officer needs a warrant to search your house.”
A big topic of the discussion was the use of student informants in drug busts.
Sam Richards, senior lecturer in sociology, said that a petition opposing the use of student informants in drug busts
was circulated among faculty members in the early ’90s, and only about 5 percent of the faculty did not sign it.
“It’s just not the kind of campus you want to create,” he said.
Shubin said the biggest problem at Penn State is not marijuana, but rather alcohol abuse and its “collateral crimes,” such as domestic abuse and drunk driving.
Nick Drewchin (freshman-economics) said that “everyone from Graham Spanier to the middle school kids at Mount Nittany … knows that kids in the frats get wasted, and then sexual assault happens.”
Richards said one of the concerns with the legality of marijuana is that there is not a national discussion about it.
“If I asked you how much marijuana is takes to get high, no one would know,” he said. “But we could all probably agree on how many drinks it takes to get drunk.”
Bundy said the idea that no amount of marijuana is lethal could be dangerous without any guidance.
“If you know no amount is toxic, how do you set your limits?” he said.
Bundy said that marijuana laws are based on “the worst of us, not the most of us.”
“There is a difference between use and abuse,” he said, adding that the group does not promote abuse.