U ranked 5th best ?higher? education school

By By Jake Hibbard, Staff Writer and By Jake Hibbard, Staff Writer

By Jake Hibbard, Staff Writer

Berkeley, eat your heart out8212;when it comes to the battle for legalizing marijuana, the U ranks “higher” than most.

The U placed fifth in the nation among college campuses in the October issue of High Times magazine’s top 20 colleges for marijuana activism. The U’s chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy is the most active student group on campus for legalizing marijuana and played a big part in the U’s high ranking.

Valerie Douroux, president of SSDP at the U, said she has mixed feelings about being mentioned in America’s most notorious marijuana magazine.

“I was happy we got that, yet somewhat skeptical about how people would perceive it,” Douroux said. She said she worries that the group is often stereotyped as “just a bunch of potheads.”

Despite the possible negative connotations with being on this list, Douroux said she is proud of the work SSDP has done.

Along with the Good Samaritan Policy that the group is trying to pass at the U, Douroux talked about how SSDP played a large role in Thursday’s repealing of Utah’s Higher Education Act, which bans students with previous drug charges from applying for financial aid. Douroux said SSDP called representatives and campaigned for repealing this act.
“Oh yeah, we’re top five,” Douroux said. “We work our asses off,”

Taner Pasamehmetoglu, a sophomore in architecture, said he never would have thought the U would place fifth. However, Pasamehmetoglu said he thinks that the strong Latter-day Saint influence in Utah might be the reason, albeit unintentional.
“For every purist, there is a rebel, it seems, and it wouldn’t be that way without the influence of the (LDS) Church,” he said.

Being activists for drug legalization is a unique situation at the U, Douroux said.
“We’re not preaching to the choir here, so we have to argue our side in an open-minded way,” she said.

Douroux said many active LDS members are part of SSDP.

One such member is Jonathan Griffin, who is active in the LDS Church and said he has never used marijuana. Griffin said working at a prison turned him in favor of legalizing marijuana. There are drug dealers in prison with a 40-year sentence while a child rapist is only in for six, Griffin said.

“I myself do not smoke marijuana, but compared to cigarettes or alcohol, the risks seem to be much less,” Griffin said.

Douroux won the SSDP’s 2008 Rising Star award, which is given to the best new member in the nation. She said she will continue to work for the legalization of marijuana in Utah.
“It’s a bright and hopeful future for drug policies,” Douroux said, adding that she thinks marijuana will be legalized in Utah within 10 years.

[email protected]