On Saturday, the MU Chapters of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana laws - also known as NORML - and Students for Sensible Drug Policy hosted the Spring 2014 Missouri Cannabis Conference. Topics ranged from medicinal marijuana to the legalization of industrial hemp production.
Tyler Elder is vice-president of MU’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He says he wants to help educate the public.
“We’re trying to educate the public on the different benefits of medicinal cannabis and the fact that it’s safer than other legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco” Elder said.
The focus on the idea that marijuana is a safer substance than alcohol appeared several times at the conference and was one of the main talking points the Keynote Speaker, Mason Tvert, who was co-chair of the campaign that legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in Colorado. Tvert says the reason their campaign worked was because they kept the focus on marijuana being safer than alcohol.
Though a recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience says even casual use of the drug can prompt changes in the brain. However, it remains unclear exactly what functional and behavioral changes use of the drug may cause. Elder says he's not concerned by the study's findings.
“I particularly don’t find that study very reputable." Elder said. "Their sample size was very small.”
Elder also says the fact researchers were pulling the students from a group of users and non-users who had similar lifestyles demonstrates the drug doesn’t cause any meaningful changes in behavior.
Marijuana remains the most commonly used illegal drug in the US, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health, and MU NORML President Benton Berigan says he hopes to legalize recreational and medicinal use in the state of Missouri but notes those aren’t necessarily the same thing.
“Because certain medical patients need higher concentrated strains or concentrates or what not, there ultimately will be some sort of restriction between what type of cannabis can be consumed recreationally, but I do believe people should have the right to do so." Berigan said. "And they should have the right and access to marijuana - just like how someone has access to go down to the corner store and buy a beer.”
Missouri State Representative Paul Curtman also spoke at the conference on an industrial hemp production bill in the legislature he co-sponsored. The bill has received support from both sides of the aisle and has been referred to the rules committee, which means it will likely reach the house floor soon.