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Issue of Marijuana Ignites Discussion

By Orli G. Bahcall
Staff Reporter

The debate over marijuana has recently re-emerged with a Boston rally in October in support of legalization. With the resurgence of a new national debate, students have taken another look at the issue of marijuana use on-campus.

The "traditional way of deterring people from smoking is by telling them that your grades will suffer, or that you will get lazy," said President of East Campus Dhaya Lakshminarayanan '96. "But everyone here is so smart. A lot of people I know who do smoke say it does not affect them."

"I had an image of MIT that it would be different than other campuses," said Hannah Meehan '99 "But I have seen pot at least once in most frats I go to and in many dorms. It just seems so easy to find," she said.

People use marijuana at MIT "just as much as at any other college," Andrew R. Bankert '99 said. "But here it is not abused, just used casually as a way to relieve stress."

"My constituency is pretty diverse," Lakshminarayanan said of East Campus. It includes "some people who advocate legalization and some who could care less."

But overall, people are "very strong in their opinions," a fact which is most visible during November, when "East Campus residents get together on some halls and discuss marijuana use and legalization."

"A lot of people try to bring this issue out because they want to stop being stereotyped as potheads and as lazy," she said.

Awareness increases on campus

Some residents have "done a lot to raise awareness on this issue," Lakshminarayanan said.

Robert J. Pensalfini G, an East Campus graduate resident tutor, is one such resident who has voiced his opinions on marijuana use. Pensalfini wrote a four-part series on cannabis last year for The Thistle.

"It is about time for a public debate on this issue on-campus," Pensalfini said. "I think that many more people -- particularly educated people -- are willing to consider the pros and cons of re-legislation now, whereas not too long ago they would have rejected it outright."

"Last year I approached the Campus Police about their drugs pamphlet," Pensalfini said. The information about marijuana contained outdated information.

Based on new studies done on the effects of marijuana, the Campus Police removed the section on marijuana use from this year's "Straight Talk about Drugs on Campus" pamphlet, Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin said.

Pensalfini's objection was "the only complaint or comment we have had in the last four months about" the information we distribute on marijuana, Glavin said. "There is very little request for information on marijuana, probably because people already know about marijuana, whereas they know less about other drugs."