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Counterpoint: “Heads” vs. “Feds”: The Debate Over Marijuana Legalization


Robert Stutman is a 25-year veteran of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), during which time he rose to become director of the DEA’s New York City office. After retiring in 1990, he formed the Stutman Group, an organization which is committed to drug education in schools, communities, and businesses.

The issue of legalization/decriminalization of cannabis is so interesting because it encompasses so many other issues: states’ rights vs. federal rights, doctor/patient relationship, democracy vs. republic, etc.

No matter which side of the issue a student is on, my guess is that the issue itself is far more complex than they first thought.

I understand that the vast majority of college students are in favor of legalization of marijuana – that is nothing new. For the past three decades, the vast majority of college students have been in favor of legalization of marijuana, and 15 years later the vast majority of those same students have been against legalization.

My job at the debate will be to make sure that Steve Hager, and all of the students who will challenge me, do so by using facts, not wishful thinking. The basic concept of the American debate on any issue is we, as Americans, have the right to our own opinion.

But we absolutely do not have the right to make up the facts. Facts are facts, whether we like them or not, and I will attempt to make sure we all adhere to facts.

I will argue that marijuana should not be legalized for the simple reason that we will have far more users. This problem added to the problem of binge drinking in the U.S., most people believe, is an unacceptable trade-off to allow a group to use their recreational drug of choice.

This is not really an argument about medicine, counter culture, etc. It is about recreational drug use and whether America needs more of it.

The fact that we will have more marijuana use if it is legalized is fairly easily proven.

First on the practical side: Does campus binge drinking go down as cannabis use goes up? Of course not, they both grow.

More importantly, every study shows that it is easier in the U.S. for high school students to buy marijuana than beer. Yet 10 times more high school students drink beer than smoke marijuana. Why? Because of the societal acceptance of beer that does not yet exist for marijuana.

We have legitimate ways to change policy in the U.S. We vote, we attack laws in the courts, we depend on science, etc. If any of those methods suggest we should legalize marijuana, then I believe we should. But not before then.

Finally, Steve Hager and I will disagree about this issue very vehemently. However, we will do so in a very respectful way because despite the fact that we look and are different, Steve and I are and have been good friends for 10 years. You can disagree without being personal.

By Robert Stutman