This article was originally posted in the SNHU Observer (Volume XX, Issue 8) on March 26, 2014:

The Office of Student Involvement at Southern New Hampshire University recently approved a student organization geared towards education about marijuana. The CannAwareness Club, started by junior Ryan Longly, aims to educate and raise awareness of the economical, environmental, medical, physical, positive and negative effects of cannabis.

Through lectures and guest speakers, the CannAwareness Club hopes to change the “ignorant perception” of cannabis, inform students of history in the making, and create advertising and social media campaigns to educate the rest of the student body. Longly hopes that the club will get students to become a part of the history of cannabis.

“The more I thought about this, the more I knew that this was something that needed to be done,” says Longly, whose passion towards the subject even changed his parents’ negative perception of the drug.

The 18-member club did not have difficulties getting approved by the Student Government Association. In fact, SGA said that Longly’s presentation of the club was “the best presentation we’ve ever seen,” according to Longly. The presentation strayed away from the personal use of marijuana and made sure the SGA knew the club “isn’t about getting stoned all the time,” says Longly. The goal of CannAwareness isn’t to promote smoking the drug, but rather to inform and educate through debates and create fully educated mindsets for future voting opportunities.

The club is advised by Professor Joanne Shayne, but Longly’s passion inspired numerous teachers to back him up with starting the organization.

“I understand how much of a controversy this will be in the school. This is an educational and a great opportunity to be a part of history and offer students this valuable education,” says Longly, who hopes the club makes a positive impact rather than a negative connotation in and outside of the university. Keene State College, Plymouth State University, and UNH all have campaigns dedicated to cannabis education. “I want to find a passionate group who wants to learn about this plant and [I can] really lead with this group as a team to make a very positive impact.”

Longly also thinks that President Paul LeBlanc would support the group. “The President I would think wouldn’t think twice about this group. Even if it didn’t get approved, I would love to have talked to [LeBlanc]. At first, yes, administration will disagree, but after they read what we are doing they will think differently. I really hope that do because this is something that will be changing and students will become a part of changing history.”

Longly says that his interest in education about cannabis started when he watched the documentary, “The Union: The Business Behind Getting High,” his senior year of high school. The film highlights Canada’s growing illegal marijuana trade industry, which makes $7 billion annually, and exports 85 percent of its “BC Bud” to the U.S. The film opened the eyes of the graphic design major and he began studying the history and industrial sciences of the plant and began closely following news about upcoming marijuana laws.

For more information about joining the CannAwareness Club, Ryan Longly can be reached at ryan.longly@snhu.edu, or visit the Office of Student Involvement located in the Student Center.