On a campus as big as UB, there's bound to be some marijuana use. UB NORML rallies supporters to clear the air on this hazy topic.
Students may not know that sometimes, marijuana is actually being used for medicinal purposes not just recreational. UB NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is a club here at UB that recognizes the benefits of marijuana and wants to raise awareness about it.
UB NORML is a group of students who support the legalization of marijuana because of the social and economic benefits that it would provide.
Matt Kopalek, UB NORML founder and president, discovered the power of the plant after extensive lumbar spinal surgery left him in persistent pain during his years in high school. Kopalek relied on pharmaceutical pills to ease his suffering but found that they did not offer much relief.
"If it weren't for my physician being really open to discussing all solutions I probably wouldn't have found [marijuana] as a medicine," Kopalek said. "It's tough in this society because I don't think that all physicians will be open to talking about marijuana because it's illegal, even if they do think it's a better solution."
Kopalek created the club to raise discussion and awareness of the medicinal power behind the taboo plant. Marijuana helped Kopalek kick a three-year addiction to painkillers and encouraged him to find alternative sources for healing. UB NORML works to fight the stigma marijuana provokes and wishes to reduce the joking undertones to promote a serious discussion on the topic.
While there is a negative stereotype attached with marijuana usage, Kopalek credits the plant for essentially giving him his life back. Marijuana has given him a positive outlook on life, influencing him to participate in tai chi, breathing exercises, and acupuncture.
"Once I realized it's an amazing medicine, I couldn't not talk about it," Kopalek said. "The more I thought about it, the more it upset me how society is geared toward marijuana…I channeled my frustration…[turning] negative energy into some sort of social awareness and open discussion of marijuana at UB. I think the most important thing is that society feels free to talk about marijuana in a serious light."
Kopalek's vision has turned into UB NORML, which meets most Fridays in 250 Student Union.
The group argues for a change in the laws pertaining to marijuana. One argument is against the amount of money spent toward arrests, jailing, and other related charges.
"I advocate for full legalization," Kopalek said. "[If I'm] not advocating for full legalization, I'm advocating to keep a billion-dollar black market of criminals, thugs and cartels who are making money that our government should be making and using."
This waste of money inflicts a negative impact on the economy, because it means that less tax dollars are available to be spent on problems such as job creation, loans, and other issues that the U.S. is dealing with.
UB NORML will be celebrating its Second Annual Medicinal Marijuana and Hemp Awareness Day on April 20. Through this event, it hopes to educate students on the various benefits of legalizing marijuana.
The club will provide information on medical research and facts about the plant itself. There will also be local speakers who have been affected by prohibition that will share their stories.