University News

Speakers debate consequences, benefits of legalizing marijuana

The speakers challenged myths about the drug’s use and its potential for legalization in the U.S.

By
Senior Staff Writer

Two leading experts on marijuana legalization squared off Thursday on the implications, merits and economic effects of legalizing the substance in a debate hosted by the Janus Political Union Debates, a sub-group of the Janus Forum.

Alex Friedland ’15, fellows director of the Janus Forum, moderated the debate and began by asking the two speakers to present 15-minute opening remarks.

Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and decade-long proponent of marijuana legalization, said illegality has created a stigma around marijuana use. He said the majority of marijuana users in the United States are “silenced,” but the country is now at a “tipping point” for discussion about legalization.

Houston repeatedly said young people are being “locked in cages” for marijuana possession, an aspect of the criminal system that needs reform.

Houston also cited the benefits of being able to regulate the market for marijuana if the substance were legalized, adding that the underground market is currently largely controlled by drug cartels.

“We can tax it, regulate it and control it, like alcohol, and take profits away from those people,” Houston said.

Kevin Sabet, former senior adviser to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Houston’s opponent in the debate, agreed that the criminal processing of marijuana possession needed improvement, but said legalization is “a step too far.”

Though “controlling something in the black market on its face sounds appealing,” the feasibility of this would be “a lot more complicated and scary,” Sabet said. If marijuana were legal, it would become cheaper and therefore easier to obtain, especially for young people, he said. Because marijuana is much easier for vendors to grow than alcohol or tobacco, these dealers could more easily avoid paying taxes on the substance, he said.

Sabet also emphasized the capitalization and advertising market that would stem from marijuana’s legalization. He compared the potential marijuana advertising industry to that of tobacco in the 1980s, when companies’ advertising campaigns directly targeted youths. He added that there are “eight times as many liquor outlets in poorer communities of color,” and these groups would be targeted as well.

Friedland asked Houston to discuss health concerns, pointing to studies that link prolonged marijuana use from a young age to lower IQs and schizophrenia.

Houston said alcohol and tobacco were much more dangerous than marijuana and questioned the validity of marijuana’s connection to schizophrenia.

“The (Drug Enforcement Administration) said in 1989 that marijuana is one of the therapeutically safest substances known to mankind,” Houston said.

Thirty minutes were allotted at the end of the debate for questions from the approximately 30-person audience. Audience member Benjamin Koatz ’16 asked Sabet why he thought a black market for marijuana would be less harmful than a legalized, regulated market.

Sabet responded that if marijuana were legalized, the black market would exclusively target young people. He added that “when a drug is normalized,” it is more difficult to conduct education and prevention programs.

Audience members posed questions to both speakers about how personal liberty fit into the discussion around marijuana legalization.

Houston said the continued war against marijuana use has been an “assault” on personal liberty. He reiterated that many young people are arrested and — in rare cases — charged with felonies for small possessions.

Sabet emphasized that “when your behavior affects other people,” the drug is no longer safe, citing a statistic that confirms driving under the influence of marijuana is the second highest cause of car-related accidents in the United States, after incidents caused by driving under the influence of alcohol.

Sabet said the vast majority of marijuana users are not arrested, and less than 0.1 percent of inmates are in state prison for smoking marijuana. Because the use of marijuana may affect other people, not legalizing the drug does not infringe on personal liberty, he said.

Maya Manning ’14, an audience member, said she supported legalizing marijuana use before attending the debate, but after listening she is now the “closest” she has been to “swinging the other way.”

“The psychological aspect of doing something that is illegal concerned me initially, so I supported legalization,”  Manning said. “But the idea of capitalism and advertising taking a hold of this is horrifying.”

  • Dave

    C @ N N @ B 1 S couldn’t be easier to obtain, or not any harder than ordering a pizza.

    • Miles Monroe

      You must comment on yahoo a lot; they let us use the word “cannabis” here … ;-)

      And you can now order a pizza on your game console without taking your hands off the controller (!), so we’ve got some catching up to do there, too.

      • cohara1103

        yahoo is funny you can use marijuana weed pot tree hash ganja etc but not the word cannabis hahahahahaha which is the proper english term

      • cohara1103

        my dealer is on live i see him on hes at my door in 30 mins or less lol
        would be nice to see a cannabis delivery app in the future hahahaha pre set for brownies cup cakes ahahaha

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.lowell Jamie Lowell

    Kevin Sabet and his blatant lies about cannabis will have to become exhausted, at some point. Sabet is little more than a shill for the “treatment” industry and for pharmaceutical companies who really provide the dangerous, addictive, and gateway drugs to our children.

    • not.patrick.kennedy

      Sabet wants to make overpriced THC extracts available through the drug companies.

      The debate is not about stopping people from getting high, it is about who gets to sell the product that gets them high.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chriswaynemorton Christopher Morton

    “But the idea of capitalism and advertising taking a hold of this is horrifying” – Agreed. But no more than when it gets it’s hands on anything else.

    “studies that link prolonged marijuana use from a young age to lower IQs and schizophrenia.”

    Studies that have been refuted time and time again, yet keep showing up like the old “kills brain cells” argument that has long ago been totally discredited.

    I had a friend who was schitzo and smoked marijuana. He smoked it to calm down and ease his nerves. It would be easy for these kind of studies to connect the dots out of context, but the fact remains, he was schitzo as a child, long before trying cannabis, and cannabis HELPS his symptoms and alleviates his nervous tension.

    Many of the “studies” parroted by prohibition supporters are red herrings based on information gleaned from police and law enforcement and associated treatment centers. These same sources like to make statements to the effect of “teen treatment for marijuana addiction is on the rise” – but fail to mention that this is only so because the majority of first time arrests are given the option to contest their charges and possible jail time, or pleading out for probation and “treatment”. Few of these “teens in treatment for marijuana addiction” came voluntarily, or had any life disrupting problem OTHER than the law enforcement community.

    See how easy it is to pull numbers from, ahem, “studies”.

  • Mike

    The reason it is illegal is because the rich can not put a big enough strangle hold on it to extort the poor with it.

  • cohara1103

    kevin sabet is a fat fuck lying douche bag

    • not.patrick.kennedy

      You forgot to mention that he is a spoo-soaked kiddie diddler, also.

  • Miles Monroe

    Somebody should really tell Sabet and his Project SHAM cronies that there’s this thing called the Internet, where anyone can easily refute their asinine disinformation; it’s so sad to see them continuing to act out …

  • not.patrick.kennedy

    Sabet is lying about the ‘stoned driving’ claim:

    “Comparing traffic deaths over time in states with and without medical marijuana law changes, the researchers found that fatal car wrecks dropped by 9% in states that legalized medical use.”

    Source: Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption by D. Mark Anderson, Daniel I. Rees (November 2011)

  • John Smith

    John Smith: I can understand the argument against marijuana legalization and how so many, who have never used it have repeatedly had stances against personal use for other people, but after use even once they have staunchly different views. Humans as a species have basic biological necessities and functions that are not met within our technological society. I have witnessed generation after generation rely upon technology for basic biological reactions simply out of lack of will power or for convenience. From my personal experience I can relate how marijuana helps one to focus ones mind on many different biological funtions or on whatever task they are attempting. The will is a very basic thing but willful attention or focus is rare and seems to be discouraged by our modern society. Studies have related how marijuana decreases the attention span from users but I counter that argument by stating that one simply focuses on that which is important to the user. When I was a child in grade school, long before I had ever indulged in cannabis, I used to daydream about all of the things that I was interested in irregardless of the instructor’s attempts to direct my attention. Today, our society calls such behavior as a medical condition, ADHD or ADD or something similar but in truth it is simply that the student isn’t interested in that specific lesson. Great strides could be made by the teachers or parents by simply asking the child what they would like instead of assuming that there’s something wrong. Marijuana enables one to focus the attention on what they are interested in as opposed to what someone else wishes for them to focus on. Our society is intent on separating mankind from the world around them to the extent that we no longer have any connection to our environment. Fifty to sixty years ago the cornerstone of our society was the boyscouts/girlscouts, polite manners and the daily dozen exercises. These aspects were essential to orient our youth to be affiliated to their environment, taught them the values that enabled them to know right and wrong, and made them physically fit and healthy, but due to our increasingly technological development and over aggression we have been spending more time away from our natural environment and more time creating new ways to destroy ourselves. Many people who have tried cannabis become staunchly opposed to this military industrial complex simply because they have become aware of how perfect the natural world is and how it has been our misdirection that has created most of the problems that the planet faces. Our soul may be completely independant of this planet, but our bodies aren’t, and the best way to use both would be to balance our independant souls with nature and I believe marijuana is essential to that end. Mankind is naturally lazy, we are inherrently aware that we have a soul that is capable of doing all things and if there is some way that we can accomplish a goal without using our bodies then we will discover it, however marijuana eliminates that lazy tendency and empowers the will to action for whatever purpose of the individual’s intent. For the portly, it may create a desire to get in shape, for the arrogant it may make one aware of their social perception, for the burdonsome it may relieve stress, and for the outgoing it may make them comfortable on the couch depending on the different types or strains used. I propose that the only reason why marijuana has been opposed so strongly by so many people for so long is simply that our social structure has become that of parent/child or master/slave when the founding fathers had rejected that very structure in the founding of our nation in the first place; and they happened to indulge in cannabis use regularly. Within this society we have to learn that we can no longer punish people who do no harm to others and do positive things for themselves, we can’t keep putting people in cages for growing a garden of peace.

  • http://twitter.com/dgfcycling2 Danny Garcia

    All this doesn’t make sense. People are going to smoke anyway and there will be dealers in the black Market such as there are alcohol dealers selling moonshine. If it is legalized people will go to the person who has the best quality. And no formaldehyde lased marijuana present in the black market which indeed does harm.

  • justin

    We have so much support within the community for legalizing marijuana, all the reason I have heard for keeping it legal are bogus. What crime rate does marijuana generate other then that created by the federal government and state governments that still chose to out law this god given plant.

    I argue that if the federal government really were concerned with public health and safety they would take actions such as;

    legalizing marijuana in order to cut down on money being taken out of our country to drug cartels and other organized criminal organizations.

    outlaw Methadome an extremely addictive narcotic drug used to get junkies clean, oh and as a pain pill also. meth-a-dome is nothing other then synthetic heroin… yeah the will allow that but not pot?

    outlaw all man made drugs that have side effects that are actually harmful to humans, such as; heart attacks, breathing difficulties, homicidal tendencies, suicidal tendencies.

    Do they really care? Alcohol causes liver troubles and results in death for thousands each year unfortunately innocent bystanders pay for the actions of consumers with their lives…

    Cigarettes cause lung cancer and serious breathing problems that all result in death, of well over a hundred thousand a year…

    Marijuana does what compared to the above?

    I urge that every one whom reads this stands up for our right as citizens to be able to amend laws, federally and state as we see fit, by petitioning the government to allow this decision to be with the people of the united states, as this decision will effect the lives of every one in this country… Therefore it is only feasible that for once we the people get to decide Yay or Nay…

    Also for the scared politicians that won’t take a stand because they’re worried there funding will be cut by corporations this petition will allow you to remain silent by putting the option where it belongs. with the people of the United States of America!!!!

    please sign here

    http://www.change.org/petitions/put-marijuana-on-the-presidential-ballot-for-legalization-by-the-people-allow-the-people-to-have-a-vote-on-the-legalization-of-marijuana?utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition#