Three panelists from across the country faced off at the Brown-Lupton University Union in a debate Tuesday night to voice their opinions on decriminalization, commercialization and medical issues regarding marijuana.
Sparkle Greenhaw, director of alcohol and drug education at TCU, said it was important to provide a forum for students to be able to discuss an issue that has multiple implications across the nation.
“I hope the students will be able to broaden their mind a little bit on the issue and to maybe learn something that they didn’t know, and to truly appreciate a forum like this where we can really discuss differing opinions,” Greenhaw said.
Students, reporters and outside guests filled the BLUU Ballroom to listen and ask questions to the panel.
Carly Spalt, a sophomore communications major at TCU, said she attended because she wanted to hear a good debate from experts and wanted to learn more on why legalization is occurring at such a fast rate in multiple states.
The panel of debaters included radio host “Radical” Russ Belville, University of Washington professor Jason Kilmer and Ben Cort, a member of the board of directors of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
TCU professor Dr. Don Mills moderated the debate. Mills gave each panelist two minutes to answer each question, then a round of rebuttal to argue their opinions.
Students said heated discussions throughout the debate led the way to interesting points.
David Cozzens, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said TCU administrators thought it would be interesting to have students interact and learn about the different perspectives on the issue of legalization with the varying guests.
“We have a really neat set up with a person who’s pro legalization, con legalization…and we have a person who’s a researcher, one of the foremost researchers on marijuana in the nation, to kind of balance that out,” Cozzens said.
The main arguments from the night included topics that not only affect the marijuana-supported community, but also the nation as a whole in regards to race and other judicial issues.
Belville argued that there is a marketplace for the legal sale of marijuana and the ongoing drug war.
“I’m for an end to wasteful spending because we’ve spent a trillion dollars on the drug war since it’s commence[ment], and people using marijuana has only gone up,” Belville said. “We can go with the status quo of arresting and incarcerating African Americans at four times the rate for their use of marijuana, even though they use it at the same rate as white folks like me.”
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Cort, a recovering drug addict, focused his arguments on the negative effects of commercialization and the issues within the judicial system.
“I think the commercialization of another vice substance is an absolutely awful idea,” Cort said. “The issue is institutionalized racism inside the judicial system inside this country because we’re chasing a symptom with this.”
Cort said the issue is about race, not marijuana.
“We’re not fixing that symptom by making the conversation be about weed because the conversation needs to be had about what racism actually looks like,” Cort said.
The panel debated for over an hour but concluded by giving their greatest hopes and fears for the future of marijuana.
“This is an amazing time to be doing research in this area,” Kilmer said. “If there is an impact on youth that people didn’t want to see, the hope is we can develop, implement and evaluate prevention programs that are going to have an impact. I hope we continue to look at what the data says, but my fear is…we give up on that.”