"Good news!" an excited student announced to a gathering of about 20 students: Issue 5 passed.
Zach Germaniuk, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Ohio State, had just arrived at a meeting sponsored by the group Sunday night at Stillman Hall. The news pleased Germaniuk, a senior in English, who announced the results with zest at the meeting. Although the meeting was to begin with a viewing of "Reefer Madness" and fundraising for the upcoming Hempfest, the Issue 5 news stole the show.
According to the Undergraduate Student Government's Web site, the passage of Issue 5 will make university penalties for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia on campus no greater than the penalties currently given by the university for possession of alcohol on campus.
SSDP tried unsuccessfully to get the initiative passed on the USG ballot for four years, Germaniuk said. The issue passed with 60.87 percent of the votes, a margin of 2,895 to 1,861 votes.
The next goal for SSDP is to enact similar measures citywide, as Denver did several years ago, he said.
The effect of Issue 5 might be more symbolic than practical, however, as the issue states that:
"This referendum shall in no way interfere with the duties of local and state law enforcement agents."
This means, similar to Denver, that state law remains and city police still have authority. Also adding uncertainty to the importance of the issue's passage is that Student Judicial Affairs currently treats many marijuana disciplinary problems similar to alcohol problems.
After the announcement, Germaniuk played the 1936 film "Reefer Madness" for the gathering consisting of SSDP members and supporters.
"Reefer Madness" is a film that comically shows a paranoid 1930s perspective of marijuana with outcomes that can lead to madness, rape and suicide. It is popular among contemporary marijuana users as a "comedy of sorts," Germaniuk said.
He chose the movie because it is a "cultural document of how the establishment looks at marijuana through this really distorted lens.
"That to the 1930s was like Ken Burns 'Civil War' to us," he said, comparing the film to the respected documentary.
"It's a comedy of errors ... It's interesting to note that those opinions shaped in part by this movie are what formed the basis of our drug policy," he said.
Showing the movie highlights the misconceptions of some towards marijuana.
After the film, the remainder of the meeting involved raising money for the upcoming SSDP-sponsored event Hempfest by raffling tickets for a $100 gift certificate to the smoke shop Import House.
Hempfest is May 17 on the South Oval and the only campus event by a student group that receives no special help from the Ohio Union Activities Board or the university, he said, making fundraising for the event especially important.