As an active member of the UCSB chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), I couldn’t help but note the reference by some members of A.S. to the joint-rolling contest as “morally questionable” in Tuesday’s issue of the Daily Nexus (“A.S. Allocates Bulk of Quarter Funds, Daily Nexus, Jan. 11). The joint-rolling contest, for those who don’t know, was somewhat of a tradition here at UCSB. Such a contest was part of every Isla Vista fall and spring festival between 1976 and 1981. Thinking that something that embodied so much joy, energy, brother and sisterhood, art and skill should not die, we decided to resurrect it. I, for one, actually welcome the controversy the event stirs up as it provides an opportunity to spotlight our mission and organization. Because morality is acutely subjective, please understand that the following reflects my opinion as well as my individual moral and ethical views.

The joint-rolling contest epitomizes that which I love most about America: the First Amendment, particularly the right to dissent. Whether you’re writing your senator an angry letter, sparking up a joint at the contest, marching in the street or burning the American flag, the idea is the same – an expression of desire for change. Putting on such an event allows us a public forum in which to communicate the case for legalization. I suspect, then, since no “red-blooded American” would disapprove of exercising a Constitutional right, that the problem of those members of A.S. lies not with the contest in fact or form, but rather with marijuana itself and our legalization goals. Every legitimate study of marijuana has demonstrated that the only hazard of smoking pot is the act of smoking itself – and this hazard can be eliminated by using a vaporizer or eating it. Surely health is not the issue. Since marijuana’s relation to crime is a result of prohibition itself, criminal association is an invalid objection, especially since studies also show that marijuana reduces violent tendencies.

All that comes to mind, then, is the “getting high.” Is getting high morally questionable? Is drinking a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine with dinner reprehensible? What about eating sugary foods? We live in a world full of plants and chemicals that affect our bodies and minds: Marijuana and its most active ingredient, THC, are just two of them. The use of marijuana extends back thousands of years, during which time there have been no recorded deaths from a pot overdose. Marijuana, for all intents and purposes, is essentially nontoxic. Its spiritual and religious use has been well documented for thousands of years and continues to be widespread today. Marijuana, at its best, facilitates creative thinking – at its worst, it might facilitate your eating an entire package of cookie dough. Unless you’re one of the few remaining Puritans, I think you’ll agree that there’s not too much wrong with that.

What is morally questionable, however, is the government’s continuing war against its own citizens. We imprison people for years whose only crime is the possession of a small amount of a simple plant. We deny the sick and dying access to a medication that can ease their pain, sometimes save their lives, that can be grown at relatively little expense in backyards everywhere, while at the same time we charge exorbitant prices for legal but far more hazardous prescription and over-the-counter drugs. We don’t believe individuals are capable of making their own, responsible, rational choices when presented with the truth. We believe that we have the right to legislate and police the neurochemistry and minds of others. These are the truly “morally questionable activities” taking place here.

Take a stand for morality and justice. Find out more about the joint-rolling contest and how to join the UCSB chapter of NORML at

Brendan Hamme is a law and society major.