University hosts marijuana debate

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    TCU is joining the discussion raging across the United States on the legalization and commercialization of recreational marijuana.

    TCU Alcohol & Drug Education and The Bottom Line, an organization centered around making low-risk choices in terms of drugs and alcohol, will host a paneled debate on marijuana. The debate begins at 7:30 p.m. on March 17 in the Brown-Lupton University Union Ballroom. 

    The four experts participating in the debate, dubbed “The Blunt Truth,” are TCU professor Dr. Don Mills, radio host “Radical” Russ Belville, University of Washington professor Dr. Jason Kilmer and Ben Cort, a member of the board of directors of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

    Belville will advocate for the legalization of marijuana, something he has devoted a large amount of time to in his personal life and on his radio show.

    However, he said marijuana is only one part of a larger cause.

    “Marijuana isn’t really the issue,” Belville said. “It’s whether a government has the right to dictate personal mental and physical integrity through force, coercion, and unequal treatment.”

    Belville said that he hopes to expose the “scaremongering” of those opposed to marijuana legalization.

    “By the time your future kids are attending TCU, prohibiting marijuana will seem as much a failure as alcohol Prohibition,” he said.

    His opposition for the debate will be Cort, a former marijuana addict and alcoholic who has committed his life to treatment counseling for those struggling with drugs.

    Cort said he was driven to join anti-legalization efforts after he understood the political motivations behind the proposed laws.

    “I didn’t know anything about politics,” he said. “It really struck me how far from center it was what they were proposing, because you saw that the idea was more about commercializing than it was decriminalization.”

    Cort said he wants to inform students about the complexity of the marijuana debate.

    “This a complex and nuanced conversation that is boiled down to taglines that sit on bumper stickers,” he said.

    Dr. Kilmer, who has researched marijuana perception for 10 years, will play the neutral, scientific part in the debate.

    “My role is to help disseminate those findings when asked by the moderator or other panelists,” Dr. Kilmer said.

    “I hope that the conversations that night allow students to think critically about whatever stance they take, and that they can be a part of efforts to answer the numerous questions we have as we move forward in a changing legal climate.”

    The debate comes on the heels of a wave of legalization efforts across the country. Washington and Colorado legalized in 2012, and Oregon and Alaska have since followed.

    Texas state legislator Joe Moody (D-El Paso) introduced legislation in December to decriminalize the sale of marijuana, and on March 3, fellow Texas state representative David Simpson (R-Longview) proposed completely deregulating the drug.

    Tiara Nugent, the program director for The Bottom Line, said that the timing of the debate was no coincidence, citing the diversity of opinions among TCU students.

    “TCU students hail from all across the country, so naturally they arrive on campus accustomed to different beliefs, norms, and laws regarding marijuana,” Nugent said.

    “This sets the stage for us to open up the discussion.”