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TCU hosts marijuana legalization debate on campus

TCU marijuana debateTexas Christian University hosted a debate on campus Tuesday night concerning marijuana legalization.

Speakers included Dr. Jason Kilmer, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington, Russ Belville, who is the host of the Russ Belville Show on 420 Radio and Director of Portland NORML, and Ben Cort who is a board member for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

“I’m for an end to wasteful spending. I take a pro business position that we should take the business to the ground to generate tax revenues. It’s a debate on how we should legalize marijuana” Belville stated at the opening of the debate.

Cort, who says he is a recovering marijuana addict, responded “when you commercialize it you have to convert current users to more frequent users and you have to get more users. That’s my problem in this whole thing.”

Belville later stated that 20 million adults are using marijuana whether it’s legal or not, adding that the Baby Boomers are becoming an emerging consumer of cannabis.

Asked why people are worried about marijuana but not about alcohol, Cort responded that he is concerned, but said that “normalizing the use of another vice substance” is not what needs to happen.

Kilmer was primarily interested in the research behind marijuana, saying that it’s “an amazing time to be doing research in this area” adding, “the more we can understand the effects, we can talk about how to use it in a different way.”

He did voice concerns about advertising though, saying “some of the confusion is that some stores are able to advertise but there are loop holes around what those advertisements can look like. It’s amazing to me to be at a red light and see a guy spinning the weed sign to advertise.”

Kilmer concluded though that he hopes “we continue to look at what the data says.”

Cort, who lives in Colorado, says he’s always smelling marijuana. “I ask those who choose to be intoxicated to give those who are sober to respect this side of it.”

Belville says his biggest concern is that “as we move forward with legalization that people on my side don’t do stupid things.” However his biggest hope is “that the millions of people in this country with medical issues will not have to wait until scientists and doctors prove that cannabis is medicine.”

He adds that he wants to fight discrimination against cannabis consumers in the workplace, saying “what right does an employer have to determine what I do in my off time. Our character, our resume, is what we should be judged by.”

Cort did concede that those over 24 year old would be able to consume marijuana without issue because by then the brain is fully developed.

He did add though that “we’re really not arresting that many people for marijuana anymore.” Recent figures in Texas put marijuana arrest totals around 77,000 per year.

Belville responded quickly with “it’s perfectly okay to consume after 24. Just don’t get caught.”

This marks the first such debate at TCU.

Shaun McAlister, the executive director of DFW NORML, a non-profit marijuana reform group, was at the debate and believes that it demonstrates that Texas is ready to reform its marijuana laws.

“To me, the simple fact that institutions such as TCU are holding debates about marijuana is proof that Texans are embracing marijuana law reform now more than ever before. Think about it. Back in 2012, there was a nasty bit of controversy involving TCU football players and marijuana. Fast forward to 2015 and this same school is now hosting a formal debate on the topic where both sides were able to be heard!” McAlister stated.

“It was exciting to be a part of this historic event for TCU and to see my friend Russ Belville dominate a debate with two out of state gentlemen who expect college students in Texas to believe that a kinder, gentler drug war is somehow better than regulation. The reality is, criminal prohibition isn’t keeping most kids from using marijuana recreationally while managing to keep that same medical marijuana just out of reach from those who could benefit from it most and as always, Russ Belville did an outstanding job representing marijuana advocates as only he can.”

Belville commented on Cort’s remarks during the debate afterwards, saying “the message coming from the Project SAM representative was what anybody hawking a lousy product does – simple fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Fear that the children are going to be impacted by legalization. Fear that big marijuana is going to commercialize the industry and create a whole new generation of addicts. All of these fears are easily vanquished as I did by continuing to point out that this is a marijuana market we’re talking about and no matter what we do there will still be 20 million people willing to smoke marijuana and someone who will be willing to supply them with it; that can be law abiding taxpaying American businesses or it can be criminally corrupt murderous cartels.”

Asked why he places such a high priority on reforming marijuana laws, Belville stated “The reason I fight so much for the marijuana legalization issue is because it has such an impact on all of the other issues that should be important to people today. Climate change, for instance, there is so much to be gained from the planting of industrial hemp: conversion to ethanol biofuels; use for hemp superconductor batteries a thousand times cheaper than graphene; hempcrete building materials that are carbon negative, recyclable, and very well insulated.”

Touching on the topic of health care, he adds “let’s talk about medical marijuana and the ability for people to provide their own health care with a plant that can grow in their own backyard.” Continuing, he says “Racial justice? Let’s get serious. We’re not going to do anything about racial justice in this country until the end of the drug war that disproportionately effects black and Latino men.”

Belville concluded, “I could go on and on about how the drug war affects so many of the issues that people consider to be the most important issues in American life and world policy. That’s why I continue to fight so hard for the legalization of marijuana. It’s really not about marijuana, it’s about freedom.”

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 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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