Good Evening, Everyone.
We wanted to share with you the second part of our “Get to know your Texas NORML Chapters” series. Tonight, we have information brought to us by one of the board members of the NORML Kats, the Sam Houston State University chapter that has grown by leaps and bounds in their first year of existence. Located in Huntsville, Tx, these proud freedom fighters work tirelessly to advance the cause of cannabis/hemp law reform. Forming a NORML chapter in the same town as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is no small task and they should be commended for their fighting spirit. Use their progress as an example in your own activism and let’s re-legalize cannabis and hemp use is Texas.
“In June of 2010, concerned students and their faculty advisor founded NORML Kats, the NORML chapter for Sam Houston State University. The early meetings were held at a local restaurant, but the enthusiastic response quickly revealed that the time was right to stand up in Huntsville against destructive government policies. Huntsville, of course, is the headquarters of the state prison system, with thousands of inmates housed in facilities around the town. Many of these prisoners are victims of the misguided policies of the War on Drugs. If there ever were a place to fight for drug law reform, Huntsville, Texas, had to be that place. The drive kicked off with a trip to Austin for the 2010 Cannabis Crusade.
At home, the first battle was to get official recognition from the university. There was some initial hesitation to grant privileges to a “pot club” but that was quickly overcome by appeals to free speech and equal treatment. In fact, it must be said, that SHSU officials have shown real tolerance and restraint in respecting the club and its activities. It is a great sign for cannabis reform that more and more people accept this as a legitimate political issue.
Beginning with the fall semester, NORML Kats inaugurated a series of activities, all designed to increase awareness of the club’s presence on campus and to bring the serious issues surrounding the War on Drugs to the attention of students. Club members volunteered to staff information tables on the main campus plaza. They took the message to their classes and social events they attended.
The club maintained weekly meetings throughout the academic year. These were used to introduce new members, to pass out information about political events, and to show documentaries about the failures of the War on Drugs. Meetings also provided space to engage in groups discussions and debates about club activities. Through November, 2010, members also focused intently on the Prop 19 vote in California. All year long, NORML Kats promoted “Cannabis Fridays”, encouraging people to wear pro-cannabis, pro-reform shirts and clothing every Friday.
With the spring semester and the defeat of Prop 19, NORML Kats shifted to promote awareness of pro-cannabis legislation introduced into various committees of the Texas state legislature. Students conducted a random poll on campus, finding that nearly 80% of over 200 respondents favored the legal right to use cannabis as medicine. That poll and other experiences working the informational tables led to editorials in the campus newspaper and the launching of the NORML Kats website (normlkats.com). In May, the club once again returned to Austin, with a bigger contingent, to participate in the Texas Marijuana March for 2011.
With the upcoming year, NORML Kats will be back in print by invitation in the Viewpoints section of the paper. Additionally by invitation, the club will be represented at the campus drug and alcohol awareness workshops scheduled for September. Talks there will include comparisons of the social effects of alcohol and cannabis, and a history of prohibition efforts and costs. The emphasis will be to dismantle stereotypes about cannabis and to promote rational-based policy thinking about cannabis and public health.
NORML Kats is working to get its “brand” familiar with the SHSU student body. The club has produced two t-shirt designs, wrist bands, and has a Cannabis King and Queen who will be working throughout 2011-12 to dismantle public stereotypes about cannabis and cannabis users. We’ve had a great first year and are looking forward especially to 2012 with the elections, the renewed efforts at legalization in California, and pushing more activism in this very conservative part of the state. ”
Onward and Upward,
Director of Online Community Outreach