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  Group Celebrates Hash Wednesday
Posted by CN Staff on April 20, 2005 at 08:03:44 PT
By David Valdes 
Source: Daily Illini 

cannabis The number "420" holds a special meaning with the drug-friendly community. It also marks the date of Hash Wednesday, a celebration held by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Matthew King, sophomore in LAS and co-president of NORML/SSDP, said Hash Wednesday, held on April 20 (4/20), is a day of activities to educate students and rally support for the legalization of marijuana.

Ryan Allured, sophomore in engineering and co-president of NORML/SSDP, said Hash Wednesday's activities will include a comedy sketch, a celebrity pothead look-alike contest, and an oregano joint-rolling contest. He said these activities will be taking place on the Quad.

"This is our big bash," Allured said of Hash Wednesday. He said activities will move from the Quad to Urbana's Canopy Club for a benefit concert to begin at 7:30 p.m.

Carolyn Sundlof, junior in FAA and media coordinator for NORML/SSDP, said the origin of "420" is a mystery. She said some speculate it was once a police code used when someone was caught in possession of marijuana. However, she said that regardless of its origin, "420" has become an inside joke for those who partake in the consumption of recreational marijuana.

"Nobody really knows where it came from," she said. "But the day 4/20 (April 20th) and the time 4:20 are sort of a time of congregation for the drug-friendly community."

Sundlof said NORML/SSDP does not encourage any illegal activity but advocates personal choice and educates the public about drug laws. She said NORML/SSDP is concerned that unreasonable drug laws have done more harm than good in the United States.

"All thinking people realize that the war on drugs in this country has failed," she said. "Drugs have increased drastically in the past couple of years." Sundlof said some people might misunderstand NORML/SSDP's motives.

"This is not a battle of stoners looking to get their drug of choice legalized," she said. "This is a group of people who understand that these laws in our country are costing us money. (Unreasonable drug laws) cause a lot of unnecessary activity on the black market and in the criminal justice systems."

Sundlof said drug policy reform is not just a marijuana smoker's issue.

"There are a lot of people in our organization that don't smoke (marijuana) at all," he said.

Sundlof said that even though NORML/SSDP faced resistance from the University when it was a new organization, it has since established a good reputation.

"We're accepted because they know that we're mostly educational," she said. "We've proven ourselves a responsible and upstanding organization."

"When the organization first started, there were a few people - campus police departments - who tried to give us some trouble," King said. "We really exercise our first amendment rights."

King said most people are very receptive to NORML/SSDP's message.

"Most people recognize what we're doing and why we're doing it," he said. "They recognize the need for change."

Sergeant John Brown of the University Police Department said police officers patrol the Hash Wednesday events and have made arrests in the past. However, he said few people have been arrested in recent years.

"One year, somebody made a bunch of hash brownies and attempted to sell them," Brown said. "If there is an arrest at an event like this, it's usually for a minor possession charge."

Brown said the event is patrolled like any other event would be, despite the controversy of the event's focus.

"I don't think that we're looking to arrest people," he said. "If they have common sense, most people know enough to not have it out or smoke it when the police are around. If the officers see illegal activity, then the officers take action."

But Allured said that the day's festivities are not about breaking the law. He said he looks forward to a big turnout, and that he is excited by the growth of NORML/SSDP.

"It's gotten nothing but bigger and a lot of people are excited about it," he said. "We're just eager to see what the future brings."

Source: Daily Illini, The (IL Edu)
Author: David Valdes
Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Illini Media Co.
Contact: opinions@dailyillini.com
Website: http://www.dailyillini.com

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