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UCF's NORML hosts Medical Marijuana Bash

By Meghan Lindner
On February 16, 2012

The UCF chapter of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws held its annual Medical Marijuana Bash in the Pegasus Ballroom on Wednesday to coincide with Medical Marijuana Month and to help educate the UCF community on the benefits of medical marijuana.

Vice president of NORML Syd Williamson said the goal of NORML is to educate the campus on medical marijuana and its use as a recreational drug. She said it's safer than alcohol and other pharmaceuticals.

"It's just really ridiculous to us that you can get things like OxyContin or alcohol, which can both kill you really quick, and not marijuana, which has never killed anyone," Williamson said.

Students were able to play educational games to learn the side effects and benefits of different types of drugs and medications and the different laws throughout the United States concerning drug possession. Students also had the opportunity to meet Elvy Musikka, one of four people receiving medical marijuana from the federal government.

Musikka uses medical marijuana to treat glaucoma. She was born with congenital cataracts and had several eye surgeries as a child. Her glaucoma started in her 30s and a doctor recommended she use marijuana to treat it.

"He said it as a friend, not my doctor, which was really interesting because I just met him," Musikka said.

Mussika said she was arrested in 1988 for cultivating marijuana, and she decided to speak out so she could have access to the medicine that works best for her.

"When I got arrested I had just lost my right eye completely, which was my better eye. There was no way I was going to be quiet. I didn't look for an attorney. I went straight to the press," Mussika said.

Mussika said she received a lot of support from South Florida during her trial. She said she couldn't be found guilty because it would be a miscarriage of justice.

"I was not abusing anything. I was exercising the instincts of survival and self-preservation trying to maintain my sight. It's a precious gift that I had the right to keep," Mussika said.

Mussika, who is now 72, receives a canister of medical marijuana from the federal government every year, and she says her eyesight has improved greatly.

"I see stars, and I certainly have no trouble coordinating my colors to wear," she said.

Amanda Herlich, the secretary for NORML, said meeting Musikka was what she liked best about the event. She said she often feels like people stereotype advocates of medical marijuana.

"Whenever I wear my NORML t-shirt, I hear things behind my back like ‘stoner,' you know, and stuff like that. People need to realize that we're not just bunch of kids that smoke marijuana. We're actually fighting to legalize what is a cure and a medication and it needs to be out there," Herlich said.

Herlich suffers from Crohn's disease, and at one point in her life she had to take 14 different types of pharmaceuticals a day. She said she feels that if medical marijuana were more easily obtained in Florida it may benefit her condition. She said in Florida, marijuana is classified alongside drugs such as cocaine, and possession of marijuana in Florida can result in a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison.

Dan Narkiewicz, a sophomore undecided major, said he joined NORML because of his uncle who passed away from lung cancer when Narkiewicz was growing up.

"He was from Texas and they have absolutely horrible regulations out there. When he wasn't eating and when he was in so much pain, I know that cannabis could have helped him out just because of all the medical things saying it can," Narkiewicz said.

Dan Froman, a junior psychology major and president of NORML at UCF, said one thing he hopes to achieve is equalization of the penalty for possession of marijuana on campus with the penalty for alcohol possession on campus.

"Right now if you get caught with alcohol on campus, you have to write a letter saying you're sorry. If you get caught with marijuana you get kicked off campus," Froman said.

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