Otago University NORML (also known as simply Otago NORML or NORML Dunedin) is a pro cannabis law reform student club at the University of Otago, affiliated to the Otago University Students Association. It is not officially related to the national New Zealand cannabis law reform organisation NORML NZ or the international organisation NORML, based in the US, however the three organisations do interact at an unofficial level.
Most members are students or recent graduates of the University of Otago in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. The club operates out of the OUSA Clubs and Societies Centre and meets twice weekly on the Otago University Union Lawn (Walnut Tree).
Otago NORML has been active in various forms for many years.
Otago University Pharmacology Professor Fred Fastier investigates cannabis use and cannabis control in New Zealand
In 2003 numerous members of Otago NORML marched to the Dunedin Central Police Station and hot-boxed the main foyer as part of the annual 'J-Day' protest. Around 50 people smoked cannabis inside the police station, resulting in 0 arrests. Cannabis plants were also planted in the front garden of the station. When asked about their inaction in the Otago Daily Times, Inspector Dave Campbell of the Dunedin Police said they 'had better things to do'.
In 2004 the Dunedin Police Station was again hotboxed, this time by around 100 people, again resulting in 0 arrests. At this point it was realised by the group that you are 'allowed' to smoke cannabis and will not be arrested so long as you are in a moderate sized group and you say you are protesting. On this basis the weekly '4:20 sesh-ups' were initiated on the Otago University campus.
In 2006 more motions were passed through OUSA at an SGM: 'That OUSA declares the University campus a 'Prohibition Free Zone' where prohibition of cannabis shall not apply', and 'that OUSA condones the public smoking of cannabis on University grounds as a protest against cannabis prohibition'.
In 2007 the University's Campus Watch security force tried to intimidate the '420' group into leaving the campus. The 420 protesters stood their ground and in so doing made the front page of the newspaper and national TV, causing much embarrassment for the University and authorities. Also OUSA passed a motion to 'recognise and publicise the knowledge that alcohol use is more harmful than cannabis use'.
In 2008 the first annual Cannabis Awareness Week was held and the group declared that they had renamed Dunedin 'Dunsterdam'. As a result the University invited undercover Police on to campus to surveil and attempt to disrupt Otago NORML's activities, causing near continuous media coverage of the group during that year.
In September 2008 the group became the focus of campus wide attention over their initiative to instate a Cannabis Law Reform Representative on Otago University Students Association executive and to have the Association build an elevated 'smokers balcony' as part of the redevelopment of their Clubs and Societies Centre. There was considerable backlash against these initiatives and the final agenda for the Student General Meeting, held on September 25, saw numerous motions seeking to remove official OUSA support for the group. The meeting was over 2 hours long and over 270 Association members were in attendance, one of the largest turnouts for an SGM in the association's history. In the end no motions were passed and the status quo was maintained, except for that the motion to 'recognise and publicise the knowledge that alcohol use is more harmful than cannabis use' was rescinded. The group took the outcome of this meeting as a 're-affirmation of student support for cannabis law reform and public cannabis use as an act of protest', ensuring that the group will continue their activities on the Otago University campus for many years to come.
The group meets every Wednesday and Friday at 4:20pm on the Otago University Union Lawn, underneath the Walnut Tree, to publicly smoke cannabis as an act of protest against what they term 'New Zealand's unjust cannabis prohibition laws'. The practice was begun as a Friday only affair in mid 2004, the frequency of the protest meeting was increased to twice weekly in the beginning of 2008. In the 5 years that the '420's' have been taking place only 2 people have been arrested at the gathering. The group began to have increasing run-ins with the New Zealand Police and the University of Otago's private security force 'Campus Watch' in the beginning of 2008. The group was placed under surveillance by the Dunedin Police Tactical Response Group sometime prior to May 2008 as part of what came to be known as the 'Narkiology Incident', but only two arrests have actually occurred during these protests. The fifth anniversary of the '420' protests was held on September 11, 2009 and was briefly attended by Police, but no arrests were made.
J-Day is held on the first Saturday in May of every year in the Octagon. The event is a protest/rally including guest speakers, music, games and more, usually running from 'High Noon' to '4:20'. The Marijuana used is highly potent, consisting of Afghan Kush, Blue Oyster and the famous Northern Lights. A popular tradition is to smoke the cross-joint as well as the 24 ft bong contest.
Cannabis Awareness Week is a week long programme of guest speakers, workshops, lectures, protests, movie screenings and other related events designed to educate the students of Otago University and the wider Dunedin community about the cannabis plant and people who use it.
Merry Cannabis is a 'Summer J-Day' held in December at various locations around New Zealand, depending on the summer itineraries of Otago NORML members.
NORML News is the official magazine of NORML New Zealand. It features news, politics, stories, pictures of marijuana, tips on growing marijuana and photos from events/activities. Members of Otago University NORML frequently contribute original articles.
otagonorml.com is the group's official website which hosts blogs of many of the members and contains forums where members discuss ideas.
Overgrown is a Cannabis Law Reform themed radio show hosted by members of Otago NORML on Radio One (91.0FM, in Dunedin, New Zealand). It airs live on Friday evenings from 9-11pm (NZST). Archived shows can be downloaded from the Otago NORML website.