A group of Fort Lewis College students is gathering petition signatures to reduce penalties on campus for marijuana
use, saying the drug is less harmful than alcohol.
The group had gathered 420 signatures by Thursday. The number 420, although often used to refer to marijuana, was
arrived at by coincidence, said Marisa Williams, president of the student group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable
Recreation, or SAFER FLC.
FLC rules require approximately 350 signatures to put a ballot measure in front of students. A student election is
set for April 13-14.
We are just saying that marijuana is safer than alcohol and should be treated that way on campus," Williams said.
FLC prohibits smoking or possessing marijuana on campus, regardless of whether the user has a medical marijuana
Williams said that marijuana, unlike alcohol, does not cause fatal overdoses and is not implicated in sexual
College spokesman Mitch Davis said marijuana offenses at FLC are handled on a case-by-case basis. There are no
automatic penalties for being caught with alcohol or drugs, he said.
Davis said students have the right to bring referendums to a vote, but college administrators are not necessarily
bound by the result.
We're happy to work with SAFER to make sure campus policies are clear, and penalties are clear and fair," he said.
FLC would consider students' requests to change campus policy, Davis said.
It is something we would look at very seriously," he said.
Colorado has one of the most expansive medical marijuana laws in the nation, and Durango has become a regional hotbed
of marijuana activism that now has six dispensaries. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
We'll probably be one of the first states to legalize it fully, hopefully," said Williams, a senior sociology major.
California voters will decide on an initiative to legalize marijuana in November.
An announcement Thursday by the national SAFER organization said FLC would be one of more than 80 colleges and
universities across the nation rallying in support of treating marijuana as a safer drug than alcohol. But on campus, the rally was limited to two students staffing a table to gather petition signatures.
Becky Bachinski, a 2009 FLC graduate, said people need to make informed decisions about marijuana policy.
The ignorance that people have, and the misinformation people have about marijuana, leads to knee-jerk reactions,"
she said. When in reality, a lot of people take part in that recreational activity."