Meet our campus celeb for this week, Benton Berigan! He is a senior from Spanish Lake, Missouri working toward his bachelor’s of science in biology and psychology He is also the president of MU NORML, a campus organization that advocates the reform of marijuana laws. We caught up with Benton to ask him as few questions about the organization.
Her Campus Mizzou: What does NORML stand for and what does your organization do?
Benton Berigan: University of Missouri National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MU NORML) Chapter. MU NORML engages students and faculty at the University of Missouri in a serious discussion about the reformation of cannabis laws to reflect more upon science, medicine and human rights.
HCM: Why did you decide to form this organization/become interested in the reform of Marijuana laws?
BB: I decided to join NORML after a lot of personal experiences and researching cannabis. When I was younger, I tried cannabis, after already experimenting with alcohol and tobacco, and I found it to be relatively harmless. I felt as if I had been lied to about cannabis’ effect, while alcohol use had been glamorized by society. I began to wonder, why is cannabis treated as such a dangerous drug?
I know a lot of people who have been arrested for small amounts of cannabis and the effect it has had on their life. Adults can and do use cannabis responsibly, just like adults can and do use alcohol responsibly, so I became interested in why people are being arrested for possessing a drug less harmful than alcohol. I have also met people who suffer from different forms of cancer, cerebral palsy, speech impediments, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, GI problems and more who could benefit from using cannabis as medicine. I have seen cannabis used as medicine and the benefits patients receive. Importantly, there is a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that cannabis is a very effective medicine. The combination of published scientific studies and my personal experiences, I have become motivated to provide legal and regulated access of medicinal cannabis to Missouri residents.
The most pivotal experience that got me involved with MU NORML was when I went to the 2012 NORML conference in Los Angeles. I met hundreds of doctors, nurses, patients, lawyers, politicians and cannabis growers. I met so many people that have dedicated their entire lives to reforming cannabis laws and supporting cannabis law reform. It was very eye-opening and inspiring. I decided after returning to Columbia that I wanted to be a part of this movement. Since returning, I have been involved with MU NORML.
HCM: What types of events does NORML put on for students?
BB: MU NORML holds events ranging from community outreach, educational and informational events, and to fundraisers. Here is a list of events for the semester:
Thursday, March 12, at 6 p.m. Arts and Science 114A — Know your rights! We will be bringing in Dan Viets, an MU alum and lawyer with over 40 years of specializing in cannabis reform and representing cannabis defendants. He will give an inside look into the justice system and the way cannabis is used to violate rights and how to exercise your constitutional rights.
March 18 — Shakespeare’s Fundraiser
April 1 — Race and the Drug War
April 9 — Medical Cannabis, research, and science of cannabis
April 15 — Cannabis and Economics, Hemp, Jeff Mizanskey and Missouri Laws
April 18 Earth Day Highway Clean-Up — Meet at the Agriculture building at noon. MU NORML has highway 70 adopted from rangline to 63 on both sides.
April 19 — Earth Day Festival (April 26 = Rain day)
April 20 — Lobby Jeff Mizanksey protest in Jefferson City, Missouri/Concert at Rose Music Hall/Shakespeare’s Pizza Fundraiser
April 23 — Recreational and Personal Cultivation, laws on personal consumption
HCM: What goals do you have as an organization?
BB: MU NORML strives to engage students and faculty in the discussion of reforming cannabis laws, while also becoming engaged in the political process of reforming laws. We believe that by engaging students in the political process, not only will they become more active in cannabis reform, but that they will become more active citizens in the community. It is our goal to educate the Mizzou community about the harms of cannabis prohibition and the benefits of reforming cannabis laws. We would like to see cannabis taxed and regulated like alcohol in the state of Missouri, the penalities for possessing small amounts of cannabis removed, the ability for physicians to recommend cannabis to their patients, and allow the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes.
HCM: How would a student looking to get involved in NORML do so?
BB: If a student is interested in getting involved with MU NORML, we recommend that they check out our Facebook page or emailing MUNORML2010@gmail.com to get on our newsletter to stay up to date with events and new information about cannabis reform, and to also look out for our new website being launched within the next week, LegalizeMizzou.org!
HCM: Are you involved in any other organizations here on campus?
BB: I am a site-leader for Mizzou Alternative Breaks, I am an undergraduate researcher in the Division of Biological Sciences, and I am a Transfer Interest Group (TrIG) Co-Instructor for the Biology TrIG taught through Residential Life.