hether they're pressuring school administrators, or lobbying state and federal officials who never inhaled, student activists have been anything but lethargic in their quest to legalize marijuana. But, despite these efforts to draft petitions and dog politicians, it's the pot festivals that sprout up every spring that really light up students' lives.
Students at the U. of Illinois host Hash Wednesday. At the U. of Michigan, it's known as the Hash Bash. And at the U. of Maryland, students celebrate the 420 Festival.
Yep, the pot festival is a campus cornerstone always certain to attract plenty of students, vendors and that god-awful patchouli. And while the cool bands, beads and hemp necklaces are what bring students in, the festivals' student organizers hope their message won't get lost in the haze. "We support marijuana legalization for medical, industrial and personal use," says U. o f Massachusetts sophomore Erin Kenney, co-organizer of the annual Extravaganja. "The more (students) know about marijuana, the more informed they can be as citizens. And they will bring change."
While these events are not university-sponsored, administrators generally put up with the pro-pot attitudes, as long as the green stuff stays put. "We support the rights of groups to exercise free speech, however, we would not condone the violation of laws," says U. of Michigan spokeswoman Julie Peterson. Sure don't at last year's "Hash Bash," 44 people were arrested for marijuana-related arrests.
But will students be able to party their way to real reform? Not a chance, says Chuck Thomas, a leading pot activist with the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. "It isn't productive to participate in events that simply spread the stereotype that keeps marijuana illegal," Thomas says. "Teens in tie-dyes smoking pot in public will not end the drug war. It will make it worse."
Student organizers say that festivals aren't top priority, but they do allow their groups to recruit students for more serious projects. "You meet through the fun stuff," says Columbia U. senior Eric Pflanzer, who helps organize the annual Buddha event on his campus. Gathering up the troops could be a challenge for hemp-happy activists. As Kenney puts it, "Pot smokers aren't always the most motivated people in the world."
Hey, at least they can write magazine articles.
By Jamie Pietras, Assistant Editor