CASTLETON — Robert Stutman and Steven Hager have been debating the legalization of marijuana for more than a decade. One of the few things they agree on: Those arrested for marijuana use should not be incarcerated.
Stutman, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, and Hager, a former editor of High Times, went head to head Thursday night in “Marijuana Debate: Heads vs. Feds” in front of hundreds of Castleton State College students.
Hager argued for recreational marijuana usage. He said medical marijuana helps with the symptoms of many diseases, including glaucoma and epilepsy. Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, meaning it has no medicinal value.
“That’s the equivalent of standing in a hurricane and having the government tell us the wind ain’t blowin’,” he said.
The rise of prescription drug use sends the message that it’s “OK to get high, as long as you take the right medicine,” Hager said.
He also discussed the economic impact of hemp, which is used in more than 20,000 products, and how the purchase of illegal marijuana contributes to corruption in society.
The last reason, one he said many don’t understand, is a personal one: Marijuana is part of his “culture.”
Stutman’s culture is different, though; it involves murders and meetings with late Mafia boss John Gotti.
The pair have traveled through different walks of life, but agree on one thing.
“The stupidest government policy is putting people in prison for the use of a drug,” Stutman said.
In his argument Hager, too, also discussed the impact that incarceration has on individuals.
“It’s taking someone who could have been a productive member of society and turned them into a vicious animal,” he said.
While Hager said growing marijuana for medical use helps in the long run, Stutman said the lack of regulation would be detrimental.
“Of the 4,000 medicines, name one you’re allowed to grow?” he asked.
While hemp and medical marijuana are good ideas, Stutman said, those aren’t the major reasons the public supports legalization.
“Most Americans do not give a damn about hemp,” he said. “Most Americans do not give a damn about medical marijuana. Most individuals who want marijuana legal want it legal because it’s their intoxicant of choice.”
Stutman also pointed to the dangers of driving under the influence and the fact that marijuana may be natural, but that it “doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Both men agreed on the dangers and health risks associated with smoking, whatever is in the cigarette.
“I tell my kids, ‘Please don’t smoke anything. Vaporize it, drink it in tea or eat it in brownies,’” said Hager as the students clapped and whistled.
The debate ended with Hager making Stutman an offer to go to the “Cannabis Cup,” an annual marijuana festival he founded in Amsterdam.
Stutman, who said he has never used marijuana, declined the offer.
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