Pubdate: Thu, 25 Feb 2010
Source: Daily Evergreen, The (Washington State U, WA Edu)
Copyright: 2010 WSU Student Publications Board
Author: Sarah Reyes, The Daily Evergreen


Marijuana Experts Address New Concerns: Cultural Significance, Medicinal 
Use And Physical Addictiveness

When I walked into the CUB Ballroom Wednesday night, I kind of thought
getting there would be like showing up at a Snoop Dogg concert, all
clouds of smoke and itchy eyes. But much to my disappointment, the
"Heads vs. Feds" debate was a sober affair. Still, I arrived open
minded and ready to listen.

In the blue corner was longtime weed advocate, Steve Hager, the editor
of High Times magazine. His publication is devoted to cannabis
culture. Hager is in favor of growing marijuana, buying marijuana,
using hemp or anything else you can think of involving marijuana, but
especially the legalization of the drug.

In the red corner was Robert "Bob" Stutman, who was the head of the
Drug Enforcement Administration in New York in the 1980s. While
holding this position, he was recognized as the man who brought the
drug "crack," and the problem it posed to society, to the attention of
the public.

Both men were well-spoken and brought valid issues to the table. Hager
pushed for legalization, and brought up the United States' overflowing
prison system. He blamed prison overcrowding on the amount of innocent
people put away, or just arrested, for drug use or possession.

Hager also said marijuana can help those with glaucoma, multiple
sclerosis and other health problems by means of medicinal use.

He brought up the environmental benefits of hemp. He feels hemp usage
could lead us away from relying on petrochemicals and guide us toward
the "green" way of life.

"(Cannabis) is part of our culture," Hager said. This is a valid
argument for legalization, and an overlooked perspective. Many
cultural events celebrate or involve marijuana. According to Hager,
one such festival, the National Rainbow Family Gathering, takes place
in a different national forest every year.

At this get-together, a huge circle of about 10,000 attendees join
hands and silently pray for world peace. Though people can pray
without marijuana in their system, perhaps the herb helps users feel
closer to nature and focused on messages of peace.

Stutman came back strong. He agreed marijuana has medical benefits,
but because only two of the 435 chemicals in cannabis serve a
medicinal purpose, it may not be the best treatment.

Stutman acknowledged legalization would stimulate the economy in some
way, but he pointed out that 278 farms started growing marijuana when
cannabis was legalized in Canada in 1999. Now, only seven have not
experienced bankruptcy.

As for negating Hager's claim that hemp can be used for spiritual or
cultural reasons, Stutman spoke about the outlaw of polygamy in the
Church of Latter Day Saints. Although something is justified by
religion, it is not always moral or socially acceptable.

He also shared some new findings with the audience. Contrary to
popular belief, marijuana can now be blamed for physical dependency.
To this, Hager suggested we should outlaw every harmless product with
addictive traits, such as coffee, jogging, sex and eating junk food.

Overall, Hager pushed responsible use of marijuana, while Stutman said
he wanted to keep the streets safe for everyone. Both men were
passionate about their arguments and showed true knowledge of the subject.

I remain neutral on this issue, somewhere in between Hager's position
and Stutman's. Hager's argument for the cultural importance of
marijuana is more than relevant, especially in a college town.
However, Stutman's claim that marijuana is physically addictive is
disturbing, given that the majority of users believe it is harmless.

I never have and never will use illegal drugs for any reason,
recreational or otherwise. But my peers are adults, and they can make
their own decisions based on their personal convictions and the
evidence available to them.

I say, as long as you aren't bothering me, then do your thing. 
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