Pot Talk: Student flock to 'smoking' debate
Published: Monday, March 27, 2006
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Students packed into the Granite State Room Thursday night to listen to a controversial debate about whether or not marijuana should be legalized.
"You guys want to talk about some weed?" asked Keith Williams, the Arts and Lecture Director for the Memorial Union Student Organization.
The crowd applauded cheerfully, as Williams set the tone for the debate to follow.
His speech was followed by a 15-minute video entitled "Heads vs. Feds," which introduced and described the history of the two men who would speak that evening: Steve Hager, author, and editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, and Bob Stutman, a 25-year veteran detective for the DEA.
Needless to say, Hager, who also invented the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, was speaking in favor of marijuana's legalization and Stutman was speaking against it.
"I'm going to give you five reasons why I think weed should be legal," Hager
The list of reasons he gave spanned from hemp's environmental benefits to putting a stop to funding corruption to the medical issues surrounding marijuana.
"I know people who are alive because they use marijuana's medicine," Hager
said, reminding the crowd that according to the government, marijuana is Schedule 1,
which means that it has absolutely no medical value. "That is the equivalent of standing in a raging hurricane, and having the United States Government tell you the wind ain't blowing," he added.
Hager feels that while health centers and pharmaceutical companies are handing out medications for disorders such as ADD, marijuana has many health benefits, as it is natural and not synthetic. The plant can be used as pain relief for glaucoma and cancer patients. Still, he says that these companies will choose to ignore it as a useful drug because it would accumulate almost no profit.
Hager continued to pose arguments of why marijuana is more beneficial than it is harmful. He spoke of his views on religious freedom and how Cannabis was a natural ingredient in anointing oils in the Bible.
And then it was Stutman's turn to speak.
He said the majority of what Hager said was based on opinion, not fact.
"Don't stand there and tell me, 'It's my opinion.' Let's prove it, guys. On either side of the issue," he said.
Stutman said that while Hager believes that pharmaceutical companies won't allow the use of marijuana as a drug because it isn't a synthetic, the largest producer of revenue in the history of all pharmaceutical companies in the United States is Aspirin, which is extracted from a natural plant. He said the same about penicillin and temoxifen.
"I guess he forgot to tell you that," Stutman shrugged.
The majority of Stutman's argument included rebuttals to Hager's opinions, stating more facts than anything else.
"You will notice that my friend Steve Hager did not mention the single most important reason why most people who are in favor of legalization want it made legal," he said. "For most people who want it made legal, it is because it is 'my recreational drug and I want to be able to use it and get stoned without the cops hassling me.'"
"If we legalize marijuana, we will have far more users," Stutman argued, adding that the only way to legalize the drug would be to change public policy; that means getting the American public to all agree, attaining the support of the US Supreme Court, and grabbing the approval of scientists.
As of now, one of the main reasons the drug remains illegal is because the majority of the American public doesn't believe it should be legal.
After Stutman's speech, the audience took part in a question and answer session with the speakers. Some questions brought up the comparison of marijuana to alcohol as a drug, and both Stutman and Hager had their own views on this issue.
"Everyone in this room knows that alcohol causes a lot more accidents than marijuana," Hager said.
And when comparing the two drugs as a whole, Hager feels there's no contest, and marijuana is more beneficial.
"You eat great, you sleep great, you have the best sex of your life," he said.
Although Hager and others felt that the legal drugs tobacco and alcohol are worse than marijuana, Stutman doesn't see the logic in adding a third drug to the mix.
At the end of the session, Hager invited Stutman to the annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam so that he can consume marijuana for the first time ever.
"I'm really looking forward to getting high with you, Bob," Hager said.
The audience roared with laughter, and Stutman politely rejected the offer.
The night ended with the two speakers shaking hands individually with students, and Hager signed several issues of High Times and copies of his book.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Hennigan was in favor of Stutman's views, and felt that it was a worthwhile event to attend.
"I thought both gave really strong arguments," she said after the debate. "But at the end of the day, the US legal system prevails, and Stutman's argument held more weight because the majority makes the difference."
Still, Hennigan also feels that there should be more student organizations surrounding the topic, which is an issue Hager felt would be an advantage for the University.
Williams had the idea to set up the event and was able to do so by contacting Wolfman Productions, an agency widely popular for hosting large debates nationwide.
Williams felt that the speech went over well and that students got a lot out of it.
"I got a chance to talk to a number of people after it and get some feedback," he said. "They said it was really interesting and were definitely glad they came, which I was really happy to hear."