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Student Senate decides what's 'norml'
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff

The Student Senate’s rejection of the proposed UNK National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) student organization’s constitution has left many dazed and confused.


On Sept. 30 the UNK NORML constitution fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to approve a student organization. Some student senators voiced concern that having a NORML group on campus could reflect negatively on the campus, present a biased argument and promote illegal behavior. Others felt that the group met the criteria required in their constitution and deserves to be recognized as a student organization.


NORML was founded over 30 years ago. Their mission is to “move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty,” according to the organization’s Web site: http://norml.org/.


NORML runs off of grass roots efforts such as the one sprouting up in Kearney. In order for the UNK NORML to be recognized by the national organization, they must first be approved by the university, according to the UNK NORML President Matt Cass.


Sophomore Student Sen. John Lawless, the chair of the constitutional review committee, believes the group’s constitution meets all the required criteria and brought it in front of the Student Senate for a vote. “I don’t think this should be a judgment call for me,” Lawless said.


UNK NORML’s presentation of their constitution was brief, and no questions were asked by the Senate. “The debate afterward was very heated,” Student Sen. Matt Wecker said. “We had a really good debate, and people were thinking things through,” Lawless said.


One main point in the debate was the message this vote would send to the community. “If we have an organization on campus promoting marijuana 99 percent to 1 percent, that doesn’t look very good to the community,” said Wecker, who voted against passing the constitution.


Lack of neutrality also created concern for some senators. “The reason I voted it down was because the constitution did not say it would remain neutral,” Wecker said. “If they were to weigh marijuana is really good for you or that sort of thing 99 percent of the time, and then only give side effects 1 percent, I don’t think that’s very fair.”


However, some saw the issue of fairness in a different light. “I think it is unconstitutional for us to limit an opinion,” Lawless said. “It is not necessarily our job to make sure they’re unbiased. Everyone has their opinion, they all have a right to an opinion and we can’t really limit that.”


Concerns of the Student Senate did not stop at neutrality. “What they’re saying should be reformed is possibly a gateway drug and illegal right now,” Wecker said.


The UNK NORML’s mission, as stated in their constitution, is to educate people “on all facets of marijuana from its legal uses to its history, as well as the negative consequences that currently come with the plant and the negative consequences of prohibition.” NORML is also intended to serve as a collective voice for those who feel prohibition of marijuana is “excessive and unnecessary.”


Despite the heated debate, student body President Cade Craig, who disagreed with the Senate’s decision, said, “The Senate as a whole has done a great job, and I don’t think this one situation changes that.” Lawless added that such healthy debate was good for the student government and campus politics.


Cass, Craig and Wecker said that they think the constitution will pass when it is introduced on Tuesday, Nov. 3. UNK NORML has already received interest from nearly 300 students, and Cass plans to hold three meetings and one large event before the fall semester ends. Cass foresees UNK NORML holding forums with debates held between judges with police officers and NORML advocates along with other events. “You can expect a Frisbee golf tournament next spring,” Cass said.


Lawless, who voted to approve the constitution, was less certain about NORML’s chances. “My vote’s not going to change,” Lawless said, “but I can’t predict the vote.”


UNK NORML faculty advisor and political science professor Dr. Avilés believes that the group is worthwhile and should be approved.


 “We have college Democrats, college Republicans and Amnesty International on campus. It seems to me that there have been a number of student groups since I’ve been here that, I have to imagine, are engaged in political advocacy of some sort. So I hope that doesn’t prevent NORML from being approved,” he said.

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