Human Rights Day celebrated at University of Tampa

04/28/14 Samuel Johnson
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Tags: Douglas McElhaney, United Nations, human rights, immigration, medical marijuana, University of Tampa


Former Ambassador Douglas McElhaney

photo by SVJohnson

Could access to medical marijuana be considered a basic human right?

That was one of the novel as well as conventional interpretations at Saturday’s Human Rights Day on the University of Tampa campus.

When referring to basic human rights, things like access to medicine, food, water and safety, come to mind. University of Tampa Professor, David Krahl, said access to medical marijuana should also be added to that list.

“So what we want to do is take a look at the access to medical cannabis in terms of being a public health issue, instead of crime controlled one. We want to take a look at the medical cannabis access issue as a human rights issue instead one that's fundamentally based on institutional wide suppression. Remember, the fundamental medical dictum here is the idea do no harm and as a result, what we find is that the whole issue of medical cannabis can be neatly and quietly resolved through the stroke of pen by the president of the United States; by issuing a simple executive order.”

The United Nations Declaration Human Rights was ratified by the General Assembly in 1976 it has been the international blueprint of what constitutes both human rights and their violations. Keynote speaker and former ambassador to Bosnia Herzegovina, Douglas McElhaney, said non-westerners can interpret human rights differently than the American and European framers.

“The international system, in which we operate is essentially western. African countries, Latin America, Asia had very little input, until a few years ago, as to what this international system was about. Human rights as we see them in this country; they are learned behavior, they are not congenital. You're not born with the idea of human rights.”

During an interview after his speech, former ambassador McElhaney said Secretary of State, John Kerry, did all he could possibly do to initiate meaningful Israel-Palestine peace talks. McElhaney said he is cautiously optimistic for future peace in the region.

“That negotiation, for example, is something we can't give up. It is something we have to continue. And if you figure it's been not a warm peace but a cold peace between the signers of Camp David, (then) that's a good thing and we want to maintain that. There's a glass half full here. Yes, there's been violence in Gaza; between Israel Palestine but it hasn't developed into a full fledged war. Those are all good things and they're things we want to maintain and to continue.”

Differences in how to safeguard human rights is often at the center of conflict between non-western countries and the West. Spencer Segalla, professor at the University of Tampa, told the 50 audience members, the human right to access to a better life complicates U.S. immigration reform.

“Respecting a human right to migrate is a way to service this human right to food. That doesn't violate property rights. That doesn't mean you have to infringe on the rights of anybody in order to service the right to food of the hungry people. And I would argue also that migration since the paleolithic times; this has always been the fundamental human activity: in search of food people migrate. If (Thomas) Jefferson says, in the Declaration of Independence, that people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, (then) the right to migrate in search of that happiness is as fundamental to the right to life as say breathing is.”

In Tallahassee immigration rights activists are trying to secure in-state tuition for undocumented Florida students and driver’s licenses for everyone regardless of immigration status.

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