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CU students, Boulder residents talk pot at National Forum on Marijuana
Written by Richard J. Rawlings   
Sunday, 19 April 2009 22:38

Campus hosts inaugural event on eve of Monday's 4/20 smoke-out

Sunday, April 19, 2009

— On the eve of the University of Colorado's notorious 4/20 marijuana celebration, hundreds of students and community members converged on the Boulder campus Sunday to talk about -- rather than smoke -- pot.

Hosted by CU's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the inaugural National Forum on Marijuana -- which opened Saturday night and continued all day Sunday -- featured discussions on decriminalization, medical marijuana, hemp and other related topics.

"This day went above and beyond my expectations," said CU junior Alex Douglas, executive director of [email protected] "It was a fantastic turnout, and a wonderful open discussion on current marijuana issues.

"Every single person that has come to even one of the panels has left more educated, more informed and more empowered on entire subject of marijuana."

The forum preceded Monday's traditional 4/20 campus smoke-out, held each year on April 20 in honor of the so-called International Cannabis Day. That event, unlike Sunday's forum, is not sanctioned by CU, yet is expected to draw thousands of pot enthusiasts to the Norlin Quadrangle at 4:20 p.m.

Organizers of the National Forum on Marijuana said they tried to provide attendees with a balanced and thoughtful perspective on the most current issues regarding the use and legality of marijuana within American society.

"This is a conversation that needs to be had," said CU junior Julie Black, who decided to attend the forum after seeing advertisements posted around campus. "The speakers are all very educated about the subjects, and they aren't biased about presenting the other sides of the issues."

Black added, however, that she would have liked to have seen a stronger showing from the anti-drug movement, both on the panels and in the audience.

But according to organizers, a number of speakers representing organizations such as the Denver chapter of the Partnership for a Drug Free America backed away from attending just days prior to the event.

Nevertheless, the few anti-drug advocates who did participate -- including Cmdr. Tom Sloan of the Boulder County Drug Task Force -- said that they appreciated the effort to maintain a balanced approach to the subject.

"I was definitely in the minority," Sloan said. "But it was a very civil discussion about a subject that is very serious to a lot of these people, and there was definitely an effort to be balanced."

While anti-drug advocates such as Sloan may have been harder to pin down, the forum managed to produce some of the most influential pro-pot activists in the movement today, including Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, and Steve Bloom, the founding editor of High Times magazine and creator of CelebStoner.com.

Bloom, in fact, often is credited with popularizing the concept of 4/20 while working with High Times in the late '80 -- before it quickly became etched into the worldwide pothead vernacular.

"I look at Boulder as the ground zero for the 4/20 movement," said Bloom, who attended last year's Norlin Quad smoke-out along with more than 10,000 other people. "It's really the focal point for where it's blowing up, and I love the collective energy of all of the people."

St. Pierre said the annual April 20 celebrations have become such a successful organic phenomenon throughout the country that NORML has decided to use the day to launch its latest project.

"Tomorrow, the first-ever national ad campaign begins on TV in favor of marijuana law reform," St. Pierre announced at the end of Sunday's first panel. "We chose to launch it on 4/20 to take advantage of the national cultural zeitgeist that takes place on this day."



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