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Russ Belville: Debating effectively for marijuana reform

Russ Belville, host of 420Radio gives a presentation on debating effectively for marijuana at the Texas Regional NORML Conference.
Russ Belville, host of 420Radio gives a presentation on debating effectively for marijuana reform at the Texas Regional NORML Conference.

Appearing at the Texas Regional NORML Conference, 420Radio.org host Russ Belville gave a presentation on debating effectively for marijuana reform.

“Our opposition is not stupid, so they are reshaping their arguments, they want to present us as extreme. They say jailing people is too harsh, but legalization is too extreme, but sending people to rehab and drug testing them, is just right” Russ stated. “They are trying to present a new way to continue the drug war without all of the negatives. Presenting themselves as the only rational people between ‘lock em up or light em up’; we need to put them back in their lock em up position.”

As Russ aptly puts it, it always comes back to jailing people if they fail to obey, so he always asks these people why they want to lock him up.

Another tactic used by prohibition supporters according to Russ is “to debunk the tax positives by saying the costs will outweigh taxes by comparing marijuana to alcohol and tobacco.” He responds to this by saying “marijuana is not the same as alcohol and tobacco, it doesn’t have the toxicity, and marijuana already exists so why not bring in the money from legalization to offset any costs already incurred and stop wasting money on prohibition.”

Touching of the subject of “corporatized pot” Russ says people are “worried about billboards, commercials and marketing to children.” He responds to this concern with “it’s as if we learned nothing from tobacco propaganda and marketing. Restrict advertising to not market to kids.” One must tread the fine line of freedom of speech though when attempting to restrict advertising.

He goes on to state “today’s big marijuana are drug cartels and kids selling at schools.” What’s wrong with corporatized marijuana he asks? He continued, “is it the jobs, the visibility, or the fact that disputes would be solved in court rather than the street? Any harms that result from pot already exists, prohibition just compounds any problems. You cannot repeal the law of supply and demand, over 21 million people per year consume marijuana, more people than there are in Texas. Why add fuel to the flames?”

Russ then tackles an often used line, “this is not your parent’s Woodstock weed.”

Citing a statistic often used by drug warrior Kevin Sabet who claims that cannabis is five to six times more potent, he addresses this with a graph from Sabet’s own material which shows that on average cannabis is only about 5% more potent, a far cry from Sabet’s claims. Russ then asks “so can we just legalize the Woodstock weed?”

“Don’t conflate pot with alcohol. The potency argument is designed to make people think the higher potency is more dangerous” Russ states. Being that cannabis is a non-toxic substance, it is impossible for a person to overdose and die from consuming the plant. A higher potency simply means that a person only has to consume less in order to achieve the desired effect of the THC, the active ingredient in cannabis which produces the “high.” It does not mean that a higher potency is somehow more dangerous though. No person has ever died from consuming cannabis. For those concerned about damage to the brain, there have been several studies done which thoroughly debunk that myth, and even some that claim it helps protect the brain from disease.

Russ also argues “pot is easier to consume than alcohol when figuring out how much you need because its effects are noticed more quickly, helping to regulate consumption.”

He then tackles another statistical claim that one out of six kids who try cannabis become addicted. Russ states “addicted is actually described as a frequent user” and that the numbers don’t work out. Another thing to keep in mind here is that often those sent to drug rehab for their “marijuana addiction” are often sent there on a court order in order to avoid jail. These people generally do not have any real addiction to cannabis, but court ordered rehab inflate the numbers.

Speaking more on the subject of kids, Russ states “44% of kids know someone who can get pot, yet it is a lot harder to get alcohol and tobacco.” It is often stated by those who support legalization that drug dealers don’t card.

Russ briefly touched on a video showing some research done about driving under the influence of cannabis. That video is below.

“By legalizing marijuana, we can do research. Texting while driving is more dangerous and traffic fatality rates in medical states are down. Texas has more traffic fatality deaths than many medical states” Russ claimed.

The amount of data and useful compounds which can be gained from simply making the plant completely available for research would be a boon in itself.

He then touched on medical claims by prohibition supporters. Russ asks “why is THC in pill form OK but not from the plant?” He states that they are trying to run out the clock on medical marijuana so that they can make pharmaceuticals and deliver everything in pill form, something that would be very profitable for the pharmaceutical industry.

“They manipulate the stats and try to say most people use medical marijuana only for pain while not recognizing that the pain is often from debilitating diseases.” Russ continued on, talking about statistic manipulations by talking about the claim that most people are not in jail just for simple possession. Often the police escalate the charges if children, firearms or a number of other things happen to be around when they bust you. This helps to distort the statistics of those who really are arrested only for possession.

Russ closed out his presentation with a graph he pulled from a predominantly white county in order to demonstrate that prohibition unfairly targets blacks.

Starting with a base of 10 people, he began adding up those arrested for cannabis, sorted by race. The whites, who made up the majority of the county totaled 11 arrests for the month, followed by 16 Hispanics. When it came to blacks though, he kept adding more and more columns until it totaled up to 146. This all while usage levels for blacks are about the same as other races.

Listen to Russ’ daily show and a great selection of other podcasts including CannaTruths at 420Radio.org and find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/420radioorg.

By: Stephen Carter

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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