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October 7, 2004 - Connecticut Daily Campus (CT Edu)

Back And Forth

By Elena Gaudino

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Should pot be legalized, or not? That was the question debated between Steve Hager, editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, and Drug Enforcement Administration veteran Robert Stutman in debate held Wednesday night at the Jorgensen entitled "Heads versus Feds."

"I'm going to give you five reasons why marijuana should be legalized," Hager said.

He continued to give his five points, beginning with the medical uses marijuana has to offer.

"There are more diseases that [marijuana] can be used for than any other substance," Hager said.

According to Hager, 157 million prescriptions are written a year to patients, with the only reason being to make him or her feel better. Hager described the criminalization of marijuana as a conspiracy contrived by the pharmaceutical companies to increase profits.

According to Hager, prescription drugs are a synthetic, poor solution to medical problems, as they not only can be provided to those with insurance -- but have various dangerous side effects.

"One-hundred and fifty thousand people die from prescription drugs each year." Hager said. "That's like a 747 going down every day."

Hager also said there are economical reasons to legalize marijuana, in addition to the environmentally friendly use of hemp. According to Hager, petro chemicals make up a majority of products used everyday which can be substituted by hemp. Hager said that petro chemicals are the leading cause of pollution.

Hager also criticized the modern day prison system.

"We built the biggest prison system," Hager said. "There are over two million in jail, yet no rapist has to face a mandatory minimum sentence, but someone growing pot will. Prison is not a solution, it's a bigger problem down the road because they're all coming out sometime."

Hager's last two reasons were what he said was the corruption revolving around the black market and his own personal beliefs.

"It's part of my culture. I've attended rainbow family gatherings with 20 to 30 thousand people on the fourth of July to get together and pray," Hager said. "We are a good culture, and we could do a lot better for this country if there weren't these laws."

Stutman rebuttled Hager's points;

"I guess Steve forgot to tell you that the single largest producer of revenue is aspirin, which is natural," Stutman said.

Stutman said he agreed Hager's plan sounded great, but said Hager had missed out on telling the audience the entire story.

"He did not mention that most want it legalized to use recreationally," Stutman said. "If that's the premises, it will not be passed in the United States."

According to Stutman, a substance is not necessarily beneficial just because it is natural. Arsenic is a natural substance, yet it is considered a poison. He also said if anyone were to vote on the issue of legalizing marijuana, it should be scientists and doctors - not the general public who would be using it for primarily recreational purposes.

"Any doctor who tells you to smoke something for your health is a fool," Stutman said.

According to Stutman, European countries, where hemp is grown legally, do not have a wide base use of hemp. Stutman said that European nations do not have clothes made from hemp, or utilize hemp textiles in vast amounts.

In dealing with the physical effects, Stutman said marijuana deteriorates the brain, leaving the user with short-term memory loss, lack of motivation and interfes with peoples' ability to think.

He quoted a Columbia University study saying that students with an average grade of "D" were four times as likely to smoke marijuana than the average "A" student. Stutman then said that users tend to grow a dependence on the substance and more and more users are submitting themselves to detox clinics.

Hager then intervened with a second round of rebuttals, beginning with the common misconceptions of pot.

"If pot causes dependence, ban tobacco, ban alcohol, ban coffee, ban sex," Hager said

Hager went on to describe the positive side effects of marijuana, personally addressing Stutman and inviting him to give in and use marijuana in Amsterdam.

"You'll eat great, you'll sleep great and you'll have the best sex of your life," Hager said.

Katie Fleming, a 7th-semester psychology major, said she made sure she came early to find a seat in the front row. She found the debate both informative and entertaining.

"I think that there are a lot of points that everyone should be informed about," Fleming said. "Especially the problem with certain groups discrediting the movement."

The night began with a video presentation portraying the different backgrounds and cultures of each debater. Stutman, described in the video presentation as one of the most famous narcs in America, was one of the first officers to work on the crack epidemic in Harlem.

On the other hand, Hager was introduced as a hometown boy who lost all faith in Christianity after his parish priest told him that all Jews and Buddhists were going to hell. According to the presentation, Hager developed an interest in novels and enjoyed famous works from Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe. It was around this time that he created and distributed his own publication called the "Tin Whistle." Later on, Hager began a career as a reporter for the New York Daily News until he landed a job as a writer for High Times. From there, Hager immersed himself deeper into the counterculture and also the use of marijuana.

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