College Honors Seminar Discusses New Marijuana Laws
In the wake of both Colorado and Washington State’s legalization of recreational marijuana this January, Alfred State Professor Wayne Bensley met with members of the college’s Honors Program on Feb. 17 to explain these changes, delving into the history behind the laws, the financial and political factors of the decision, and even the chemistry of the drug itself.
“It is important to have intelligent conversations about contentious topics such as the recent changes to marijuana laws—and proposed changes in New York—due to the fact that it is such a polarizing issue,” Bensley said. A professor of forensic science in the college’s Physical and Life Sciences Department, Bensley has testified as an expert witness in hundreds of county, state, and federal cases.
“Students seemed very interested in the topic as a whole, and, based on questions I received, they left with open minds,” he said. “I tried to present the material in an unbiased manner to allow them to formulate opinions on the subject based on the information that was presented.”
Members of the Honors Program meet several times each semester to hear guest speakers on a wide range of current topics and these topics often spark debate, which, Bensley believes, is a good thing. “While polls indicate that the majority of Americans do advocate the usage of marijuana for medical purposes, these same polls typically show that this position is held by only 52 to 55 percent of the general population.”
As of Jan. 1, recreational use of marijuana is legal in both Colorado and Washington State, and New York’s Governor Cuomo has proposed making medical marijuana available at a limited number of hospitals in the state.
“Before taking a stand on this issue, it is important for people to understand the difference between rumors, unsubstantiated claims, and scientific data that is available in this area. The recent events in Colorado and Washington State will likely serve as an experiment for the rest of the country,” he said.
During the seminar Bensley also explained the chemistry of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an important compound in marijuana, and the close relationship between marijuana and the once commonly used hemp plant. Although arguments for and against the changes in marijuana laws remain, it is Bensley’s prediction that every state will be watching closely as these decisions unfold.
Photo Caption: Members of Alfred State’s Honors Program held a seminar in February to discuss recent and proposed changes to marijuana laws.
Back row, left to right: Professor Bensley, Darima Tsoktoeva, Ian Potash, Kathryn Worth; Front row, left to right: Spela Sluga, Stephanie Pembleton, Samantha Duquette, Emilie Vernack