Ex-‘High Times’ Editor, Retired DEA Agent Debate Marijuana

May 9, 2010 – NEW BRITAIN, CT. — In the U.S., marijuana has been illegal since 1937. Should it be made legal again? That was the question Steven Hager, former editor of High Times magazine, and Bob Stutman, retired DEA agent, debated at Central Connecticut State University Thursday night, at an event sponsored by the campus chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Hager kicked off the debate by listing his reasons to legalize it:. One, “It is good medicine.” Hager cited studies showing medicinal benefits marijuana has for those suffering from AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other illnesses. However, he pointed out, the federal government lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the status reserved for substances with no medicinal value.

“No medicinal value! That’s the equivalent of standing in the middle of a hurricane and having government tell you ‘The wind isn’t blowing,’” he said.

Hager also said pharmaceutical companies oppose legalization. “They don’t have problems with you getting high — they’ve got amphetamines [and many other intoxicating substances]. They want to get paid.” By contrast, he said, if you grow marijuana “you and your grand-kids have free medicine for the rest of your lives.”

Stutman rebutted that point. “Steve said marijuana will never become a medicine because pharmaceutical companies won’t accept non-synthetic medicine.”

However, he said, penicillin is most pharmaceutical companies’ best-selling drug, and comes from bread mold — a natural substance. Hager responded by asking the audience how many of them knew people who whipped up their own batch of penicillin when they got sick (no hands went up) and then how many knew people who raised their own marijuana (dozens of hands went up).

Hager’s second reason for legalization was, “Hemp is good for the environment.” He discussed hemp’s role in American history. George Washington encouraged farmers to grow it, as it was used to make rope, cloth and hundreds of other necessities. “It wasn’t even called marijuana until [the 1936 movie] ‘Reefer Madness.’ They gave it a Mexican name to confuse people.”

Hager also said that hemp was formerly used to make plastics, cellophane, and hundreds of other items now made from petrochemicals instead, thus contributing to environmental damage.

Stutman’s rebuttal was that hemp products are not very good. As an example, he said Canada legalized hemp farming in 1999, and the country had over 270 hemp farms, Today, he said, there are only six hemp farms in the country. The others all went bankrupt. “If hemp is so great, why did they go bankrupt?”

Hager’s third point was that the U.S. has by far the largest prison system in the world and criticized the disproportionate sentences handed out to drug offenders: “Take someone growing marijuana in his basement, maybe because he has MS, maybe he just wants to get high, the government doesn’t care.” The government would prosecute as though each individual marijuana seed were a full-grown plant, mandatory minimum sentencing would ensure a very long stint in prison for the growers, and  “There’s no mandatory minimum for rapists or murderers, but we have mandatory minimums for glaucoma patients,” he said.

Here there was agreement. “I don’t think anyone should be thrown in prison for the use of any drug. That is a stupid government policy that gets us nowhere,” said Stutman.

Hager’s fourth point was, “We’ve got to stop funding corruption.” Marijuana, essentially a weed, can grow almost anywhere in the world. “The real price of marijuana isn’t $5,000 a pound. It’s a dollar a pound. The other $4,999 goes to criminals.” Illegal drugs is a $500 billion a year business, and “$500 billion a year buys a lot of dirty cops, and it always will.”

Stutman said that merely legalizing marijuana would not put the drug cartels out of business, to do that would require the legalization of all drugs.

Hager’s fifth reason for legalization was “It’s part of my culture.” He talked about going to the 1969 Woodstock festival, and among half a million people “I never saw a fight break out. Despite how the media portrays us, we are good people. We raised our kids and grand-kids … as American as apple pie, rock and roll and baseball.”

Arguing against legalization, Stutman said “If we legalize marijuana we will have far more users” and more car accidents if people drive after smoking it. NORML’s own Web site tells people never to drive after using cannabis he said. He also said marijuana can cause cancer by interfering with DNA.

In rebuttal, Hager discussed the marijuana scare stories of the past. When he was in high school, young men were warned smoking marijuana would cause them to develop “large breasts like Dolly Parton,” which never happened. Later, he said, the warning was that marijuana would cause sterility, which also never happened.

However, Hager said, smoking anything is a bad idea, which is why he said anyone using marijuana should “vaporize it, drink it in tea or eat it in brownies,” so the bad effects of smoking would not be an issue.  By Jennifer Abel.  Source.

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