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420 seeks smoking policy exemption

By admin | October 8, 2011

The Martlet

Hempology 101 hopes to have weekly lectures and 420 sessions declared a cultural tradition

Oct 06, 2011 | Volume 64 Issue 9

Brandon Rosario

Hempology 101 is currently holding its lecture series and 420 festivities beside the Student Union Building, in compliance with UVic’s smoking policy.

Brandon Rosario

The UVic Students’ Society’s Hempology 101 club has been uprooted for the first time in its history.

Due to the university’s new smoking policy, which prohibits smokers from sparking up in any area within Ring Road, the group has been forced to relocate from its old meeting place on the quad to a new spot beside the SUB building. However, marijuana activist Ted Smith, who has run the club’s weekly 420 sessions for the last thirteen years, has promised members and participants that he won’t be displaced without a fight.

“If the administration doesn’t let us back, we’re going to fight for our way back,” said Smith at a Wednesday rally to a crowd of about 100 pot-enthusiasts.

Prompted to take action by students and faculty who have complained about second- hand smoke around busy areas like the UVic quad and fountain area, the administration has installed fifteen designated smoking benches in locations around campus. But the policy, which went into effect Sept. 1, allows for an exemption to the rules if smoking is deemed necessary for ceremonial purposes, something Smith argues could be applicable, considering the club’s long history and cultural significance.

According to the university’s Risk Management Steering Committee, such an exemption can be given by the Vice President of Finance and Operation (VPFO) “to accommodate the use of tobacco or related substances in connection with culturally significant celebrations.”

“[We’ve requested] to be granted an ex- emption from the smoking policy and allowed to move these meetings back to the centre of campus where they rightfully belong,” said Smith.

“This is okay for now, but when it rains we’re going to have to move over towards the Student Union building, which is not nearly as good of a location for us,” he says.

“We’ll be much closer to other people, which is one of the reasons why [the administration] wanted to push smokers away from the centre of campus in the first place.”

Smith hopes to garner popular support for the club’s relocation back to its old spot in the quad through a March referendum, which will ask students whether or not they would consider Hempology 101 to be a cultural tradition.

“If we have the support of the student body, then it is our intent to move back . . . we’ll look at all of our legal options and see if the referendum can be made binding,” says Smith.

Having been convicted of drug trafficking at a Hempology 101 meeting in 2000 when he was caught by an undercover police officer passing around a joint with students, Smith is no stranger to hostile attitudes against both himself and the club from authority figures and the university administration.

“There were several years where I wasn’t allowed on campus, at which point the club actually became a lot more popular,” he says.

“People were outraged that I’d been arrested . . . when I was allowed back, [the club] was bigger than ever and that’s when I started the lecture series.”

Johnny-Ray Houston, a second-year computer science student who attends the weekly lectures and 420 festivities regularly, is skeptical of the new location because of its lessened visibility and close proximity to the residence buildings.

“Before, everybody would come out [of classes] and say ‘hmm, it smells like pot, I guess I’m going to go to the 420 club,” he says.

“Now it’s closer to rez and you’ve got people that are a bit more reserved coming out . . . so support seems to be a little more lacking.”

Second-year engineering student Liam Klein also acknowledges the implications of moving the event closer to a residential area, where people may be more likely to complain about the weekly toke sessions.

“I think it’s detrimental to the university and the community at large to have [events] here,” he says.

However, Klein adds that the move could prove to be self-defeating and is optimistic about the chances of the club being moved back to its old location without the need for a referendum.

“Eventually . . . somebody is going to make a complaint and [the administration] will say ‘Look, you’re better off back on the quad,’ ” he says.

For now, Smith will continue to host his lecture series and 420 spark-ups every Wednesday next to the SUB in compliance with the university smoking policy.


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