On March 19, The Huffington Post hosted the Great Marijuana Debate and asked readers if marijuana should be legalized for recreational use.
On the legalization side we had Robert Corry, a Colorado-based attorney specializing in criminal defense and civil rights. He has defended more medical marijuana criminal cases than any other attorney in Colorado and is the only attorney to win multiple acquittals for defendants facing medical marijuana charges.
On the anti-legalization side we had Bob Enyart, a talk radio host on Colorado-based KGOV radio and a pastor at Denver Bible Church who is outspoken about his belief that marijuana should remain illegal with exception for prescription-based medical use.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR ROUND TWO OF THE GREAT DEBATE)
You read their original statements and voted overwhelmingly for Corry's legalization position with 96% of readers agreeing with Corry before the debate and 97% agreeing with him after reading both statements.
So, we invited both men back to give them each a chance to respond to their original statements and try to sway your opinion on the issue one more time. Now, we present: The Great Marijuana Debate, Round Two--Corry's and Enyart's rebuttals.
Read Corry and Enyart's original statements, their new rebuttals to one another below and then vote on who makes a better argument about the topic. And as always, let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Let round two of great debate begin!
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It is 5:00 a.m. on a cold dark Colorado morning. Twenty-five SWAT team officers, clad in black helmets, body armor, wielding assault weapons, large clear shields, and heavy iron battering rams, surround a quiet residential home, shatter the front door, and throw flash-bang grenades and tear gas inside.
The team of 25 militarized cops stream into the house, screaming obscenities, shattering the terrified childrens' sleep and jarring the scared parents awake. The SWAT team then literally destroys the home and the furniture within, slashing couches, overturning bookcases, throwing possessions all over the floor, carting the crying children off to Social Services or foster care, and throwing the parents to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffing them painfully before carting them off to the police station.
The SWAT team then locates its target: a couple dozen three-foot high cannabis plants in a modest indoor basement garden, and a pound or so of dried plant matter, some lights, some fertilizer, and a few books on how to grow marijuana.
This is not an extreme example. This scene literally happens every day in America, a nation that loudly professes that it is a "free" country, but that leads the globe in per capita incarceration of its own people, a rate that exceeds those of human rights leaders such as North Korea, China, and Iran, due mostly to the war on drugs.
And this scene embodies America's war on marijuana. A government this large, this powerful, this intrusive, this belligerent, is necessary to fight this modern-day prohibition against a simple herb that approximately half of the American adult population has consumed at some point in their lives. There are so many reasons this must change:
The war on marijuana costs us money. The direct costs to local, state, and federal governments are staggering and exceed a trillion dollars. Police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, courts, jailers, prison guards, and defense lawyers form a massive prison-industrial complex that distracts limited resources away from our failing economy and other more important priorities. The indirect costs to the economy, though more difficult to quantify, are probably higher in the form of people removed from their families and their jobs, the opportunity costs of distracted police and jammed courts too busy to adjudicate important criminal and civil cases. We also lose out on the benefits of industrial hemp, which has no recreational effect but which could be an extremely useful crop for American farmers and industry.
And all of this money has been wasted -- accomplishing, like so many other heavy-handed government programs, the precise opposite result of that which was intended. Even the U.S. government's drug czar (it is appropriate that this government position is named after an imperial Russian tyrant), Gil Kerlikowski, admits that the 40-year experiment with drug prohibition has been an abject failure.
Decades of drug prohibition has not accomplished a single of its goals. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As our governments at all levels pour more lawyers, guns, and money into this militarized marijuana prohibition, people still obtain it -- easily -- and supply and demand is totally uninterrupted on a macro scale; one dealer falls, another pops up. Under Einstein's definition, our government is literally insane.
The war on marijuana is alien to the principles of a free nation founded on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. The negative impact of marijuana prohibition laws far outstrip the negative impact of the substance itself, which is one of the few things on Earth that has no practical lethal dose, it is basically harmless.
Humans in all cultures have used the cannabis plant since the dawn of history for medicinal, spiritual, industrial, and recreational purposes; only in the 20th century did it occur to any government to prohibit it. Thomas Jefferson and other founders grew cannabis on their plantations. The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper. Even Genesis 1:29 confirms that God gave man every seed-bearing plant on the Earth. God giveth, government taketh.
The history of American marijuana prohibition and "reefer madness" shows that its practical and legal basis is a house of cards. An outgrowth of alcohol prohibition which arose in roughly the same era, marijuana prohibition was born out of racially-charged fears of Mexicans and blacks.
For the American government to prohibit the cannabis plant, that government must declare war on its own principles. Such a prohibition then contributes to overall erosion in the general population's respect for the rule of law, because the aggressive enforcement of this law touches so many people and makes the law itself -- not just marijuana laws, but all laws and law enforcement officials -- a joke.
The body armor-clad government stormtroopers are necessary to prosecute the war on marijuana. That level of expensive and intrusive force is necessary if cannabis, widely used and widely accepted, is to be prohibited from our private homes and lives. But perhaps the best brief against prohibition is the fact that marijuana is widely available to prisoners in America's prisons and jails. Prisons and jails are the most tightly regulated, highly government-controlled locations in the world. If the government cannot keep marijuana outside of these places, can anyone seriously argue prohibition is enforceable in the general population?
The war on marijuana, like alcohol prohibition before it, creates and fuels the criminal underclass, organized crime, and domestic and foreign drug cartels. It is basic Economics 101: where there is a demand, a supply will be created to meet it, period. Human demand for marijuana, like alcohol, has lasted thousands of years, and will never go away. Leading economists like Milton Friedman have long seen the drug war as an economically-bankrupt policy.
If marijuana were legalized and taxed, violent drug cartels would lose the principal source of their income. Marijuana ought to be treated like a more dangerous substance: alcohol, available at the corner liquor store, and taxed and regulated. How many Mexican drug cartels smuggle beer over the border? Ban it, and you would see many. Create a regulated legal market for it, and the drug cartels are not involved.
It is literally easier for American schoolchildren to obtain marijuana than beer.
That is because the government has created the black market in marijuana, making it more accessible to children. There is no black market in beer. It is relatively cheap and easy to obtain, for adults, but difficult for children. Prohibition increases childrens' attraction to marijuana; the "forbidden fruit" is always sweeter.
For all of these reasons and many more, Americans have now passed the critical 50 percent threshold in support for legalization of marijuana. (These polls typically understate support, as many Americans are understandably reluctant to admit to using or supporting marijuana to an anonymous telephone surveyor.) Even conservative televangelist Pat Robertson recently acknowledged that marijuana ought to be legal.
It is long past time for politicians at all levels to end this bankrupt policy of Prohibition, and stop breaking down the doors of Americans who only want to possess a harmless plant in the comfort of their own homes.
Yes, long-term pot use leads to disorganized thinking. But can't at least one person out of the thousand commenting here on HuffPo recognize how arbitrary they all are? Hundreds of angry comments hit one side for mentioning God. But not a peep is heard against the pro-pot lawyer for quoting the Bible.
My opponent Robert Corry and the "HuffPot" readers posting comments are making arguments that have nothing to do with right and wrong.
So the sum total of everything they've said cannot possibly determine whether it is wrong to decriminalize marijuana. All who claim that right and wrong are irrelevant can no longer argue that the anti-pot side is wrong.
All they have left then is raw force. So if there are fewer level heads than potheads (and their supporters), then by majority rule they just might be able to decriminalize marijuana.
And speaking of majority rule, while reading Mr. Corry and the many comments, I see that marijuana advocates are familiar with our founding fathers. So they'll recall that the majority once approved of laws allowing men to own other men as property. Those quoting leaders from back then tell of the antebellum expectation that hemp could have saved the world, and would have except for cruel prejudice. Today, all those who think majority rule should replace absolute right and wrong therefore reject that smoking pot can even theoretically be "wrong." But then they sure can't claim that slavery was "wrong" either (unless they're smoking).
I appeal to those who know, and to those who are still open to the possibility, that right and wrong actually exist. I think Mr. Corry would agree with me that "Thou shall not murder," is not just a good idea; it's the law. And it "was" the law, even before any constitution or king said so, as per the book my opponent quoted from. For those who oppose legislating morality, please be inconsistent when it comes to rape, kidnapping, stealing, and murder. For God's enduring commands include: "Thou shall not steal" and "Thou shall not bear false witness," which we call perjury, and also from Exodus: "Thou shall not kidnap," which alone if enforced would have prevented America's slave trade.
MONEY: Apparently conceding the higher ground of right and wrong to the anti-pot side, Mr. Corry's argument to decriminalize pot is arbitrary: money. He wrote, "The war on marijuana costs us money." Yes. So do our efforts to prevent murder. And the government does a lousy job deterring that too. But that's not a reason to decriminalize murder. And for those currently smoking, I am NOT comparing smoking pot to murder. I'm testing the form of Robert's argument: It costs a lot; it's not working; we should give up.
FREEDOM: In his next section, Mr. Corry tells us that, "marijuana prohibition was born out of racially-charged fears of Mexicans and blacks." But he forgets to add that therefore cocaine law must be targeting attorneys since cocaine is the lawyers' drug of choice. And I appreciate Mr. Corry quoting from Genesis 1 (although his references get a different response; when I mention God it burns the eyes of our readers, like tossing holy water at a vampire). "God gave man every seed-bearing plant;" they were good, and the Lord gave them to man for food. But don't stop there. Keep reading just till chapter 3. Man's rebellion destroyed the original paradise. The ground was cursed. That's why today the Earth has many dangerous plants.
Reading a bit further explains why it is wrong to offer hemlock, or intoxicants, to our friends. Then, again arbitrarily, Mr. Corry fails to test his own argument with other illicit behaviors, like sexual assault in prison. He argues: "If the government cannot keep marijuana [out of jail] can anyone seriously argue prohibition is enforceable in the general population?" The same could be said for rape. And again, stoners, I'm not comparing getting high to rape -- I'm exposing Mr. Corry's reasoning as arbitrary.
SAFETY: And here too, of course Mr. Corry would not apply many of his own arguments to other behaviors, like trafficking in children or killing the innocent. "Human demand for marijuana [innocent blood, sex trafficking] has lasted thousands of years, and will never go away." So what. The arguments, not being based on right and wrong, are meaningless.
CHILDREN: "It is literally easier for American schoolchildren to obtain marijuana than beer." What does that have to do with anything? It's easier for students to steal cars than buy them, to cheat rather than earn an A; and to get pregnant rather than buy pornography. So what? These are arbitrary observations that obscure the underlying issues of right and wrong.
Ending the pot prohibition will affect kids as consumption increases. Pot propaganda and studies alleging that during prohibition cirrhosis of the liver and crime didn't decrease all that much, claim that that "prohibition doesn't work anyway." No one would get noticed reporting that it gets darker after dusk, nor that prohibition reduced alcohol consumption. And add to that the decades of pro-pot bias on universities and it's amazing that any studies admit any increase in alcohol-related problems since prohibition ended.
Uniform crime statistics leave much to be desired today, and in the 1920s and '30s such data was nonexistent and has to be recreated by secondary indicators. But regardless, of course for the average person alcohol consumption significantly decreased during prohibition, and with that decrease, there would be fewer child victims from alcohol-related crimes.
The U.S. Census Bureau today counts more than 4,000 alcoholic beverage wholesalers with 178,000 employees, and more than 43,000 bars with a third-of-a-million employees with alcohol also sold at more than 31,000 liquor stores by 147,000 employees and in a hundred thousand grocery stores, hotels, casinos, airplanes, and restaurants with a mature industry distribution channel employing a fleet of tens of thousands of modern 18-wheelers. Adjust for population all you want, and even if we had no evidence of a decrease in crime or cirrhosis, the very laws of physics falsify the misconception that prohibition didn't decrease alcohol consumption. For there is no way that America's massive Budweiser, Coors, Bacardi, Gallo, etc., alcohol distribution system could be compressed into a secret criminal endeavor supplying speakeasies in the wee hours of the night.
So consumption of pot would increase with decriminalization, just as medical marijuana has already lead to Colorado's "stoned driving epidemic." Then, as parents get high (as with pot, alcohol, or any substance), they become a threat to their own children (and to neighbors, emergency workers, etc.) and as a result more kids will suffer.
The argument is not that alcohol should therefore be recriminalized. Rather, it should be criminal to get drunk (which it's not) or to possess a substance the normal use of which gets the average person high. Of the many comments I've read not a single one even attempted to refute the main point from my first round. I couldn't find one showing the point was even understood.
Here's the main point. There's a difference in the normal, proscribed use of alcohol, versus the normal use of recreational drugs, whether crack, or ecstasy, or pot. The normal use of hash gets people high. (But no one would learn that by reading Wikipedia's Hashish entry as of March 22, for with the culture's godless bias, there's NOT A SINGLE REFERENCE in the whole article to "drug," "intoxicant," nor even the possibility of getting "high," as though they were reviewing coffee beans.) On the other hand, millions of people drink a beer or a glass of wine every night (many, even for decades) and don't get drunk (nor slow and stupid). But millions of people cannot smoke a joint and not get high. I first observed pot smokers getting high in the 1970s on just a few puffs. And hosting a talk radio show for twenty years has kept me up to speed on the constantly increasing potency of marijuana that makes it much easier to get wasted today than it was decades ago.
Extrapolating from my firsthand observations, from the former potheads who've said as much on my talk show, and from increasing potency, it is obvious that for many millions of people, even a single drag, or two, or three, on a marijuana cigarette, will get them high. I also allege that the culture's continued mocking of potheads (Why do you think they call it dope?) is an indication that countless millions intuitively know that prolonged pot smoking makes people dopes.
Demonstrably, unless a pothead goes through detox for a week to a month, he's slower mentally. And we all still call it dope. Even the aforementioned biased Wikipedia admits that the long-term effects of cannabis have "been correlated with the development of various mental disorders in multiple studies." And of course it's addicting, for there is often compulsive use even among those who acknowledge harmful effects on relationships, work, etc.
Drunk and stoned people present an increased risk to their neighbors and society at large, a risk we shouldn't have to tolerate. A marksman can shoot a gun in a park and not hit anyone but we don't put up with the unnecessary risk and it really doesn't matter that we're killing his buzz. As argued above we have increased alcohol consumption as compared to prohibition and it follows that we have more negative effects from alcohol abuse today than during prohibition. But laziness causes trouble, so negative consequences alone are insufficient grounds to criminalize behavior.
The "normal" use of pot makes millions of users high. That's a risk that God (I know, their eyes are burning) doesn't require that we put up with. So, other than by prescription from a pharmacy, that's why pot should be illegal. And besides, as above, long-term use makes you stupid.
Regarding marijuana use or any moral question, arguing right and wrong in today's society is especially difficult because a growing number of people reject absolute right and wrong. Producing a documentary titled Get Out of the Matrix, our video crew walked onto a college campus and asked random people in the student center, and a philosophy professor and her class, whether or not it was absolutely wrong for a man to violently rape a woman, or for the National Socialists to slaughter millions of Jews. "No," was the answer we would get. "Not absolutely wrong."
So if you likewise assume that there is no right or wrong (and thus reject arguments against pot), then you've got problems way more serious than marijuana and you need to find help.
Pot should remain as a controlled substance, with marijuana-based medicines (like cocaine-based medicines) available by subscription fulfilled not from your home-grown stash but through a pharmacy. Why?
It's wrong to get high. For in doing so you reject the counsel of the God who made you. And by intoxication you lose what should be a full control of your mental and moral faculties. You become a threat to yourself and a risk to those around you.
Billions of people cannot get drunk on a sip of wine. Hundreds of millions cannot get drunk even on a glass of wine or a can of beer. Conversely, there are countless millions of people who get high with the normal use of even only one, two, or three drags on a joint. Thus for billions of people, normal use of alcohol does not automatically get them intoxicated but the opposite is true for marijuana.
It should be illegal to get high and any substance should be controlled whose normal use makes one high.
Pot has been politically correct on college campuses for decades and so studies are easily biased, which is why it's surprising that so many of them warn of the serious risks. But looking at the candid testimony of the masses, millions of people believe that smoking pot makes you stupid. Yes, stupid.
Long-term cigarette smoking is bad for your lungs but unlike for pot, there are not millions of people who believe that tobacco makes you intoxicated, lowers your IQ, and makes you slow and stupid. But why the difference? These millions haven't weighed conflicting scientific studies (including those showing learning and memory impairments from using pot). Rather, they've seen the results first hand. While studies conflict, many confirm what millions have perceived -- that routine pot use leads to serious mental health issues. On the other hand, a nightly glass of red wine has the opposite reputation, of not making anyone slow or stupid, but of sustaining health and even decreasing the likelihood of dementia.
Many studies show serious problems, for example, with schizoid psychosis while smoking. And marijuana can act as a cancer-causing carcinogen and damaging DNA for pot smoke contains higher levels of certain toxins than tobacco, which is why pot smokers face rapid lung destruction, with the impact on lungs from one joint equaling up to five cigarettes. Pot also opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi's Sarcoma. And for pregnant moms, it can harm their unborn child by impairing growth and by causing long-lasting neurobehavioural problems. (And if you've read online that marijuana has never caused a single death, just assume you're reading a pothead's website.) For habitual use is strongly associated with car crash injuries and smoking marijuana doubles the risk of fatal accidents.
So, millions of people believe that smoking pot makes you stupid because it does. And it impairs one's healthy inhibitions. And like with many other problems as identified at KGOV.com/pot, parents who use pot at home will, at unexpected times including in emergencies, end up driving their own children after they've smoked half a joint. And pot makes folks paranoid (as I've seen firsthand even aside from criminality). And pot's quick intoxicating effect will weaken a man's moral compass and then, as the Bible warns of drunkenness, increase his lust for other women.
So when the normal use of a substance makes a person high, then the government correctly outlaws and classifies that drug as a controlled substance. Thus while marijuana-based medications should be available on a prescription basis from a pharmacy, pot use should not be normalized and the marijuana drug should be illegal.
With this debate, we are really talking about whether a person should be placed in a cage, a jail, a prison, locked up, deprived of freedom, for possessing... a plant. That is the real meaning and effect of making something illegal, a crime.
Pastor Enyart's argument fails to address the core point of this debate; whether criminal law will solve the "problem," assuming arguendo that adult marijuana use is even a problem. The pastor neglects this fundamental question of criminality, probably because no sane person could argue that the current policy bears any resemblance to a success.
Raise your hand if you believe alcohol prohibition was a successful governmental policy, one that ought to be emulated and duplicated. Guarantee: both of your hands remain firmly lowered. There are few governmental policies in history that created more carnage, sheer harm, and wasted more money, time, and lives -- while utterly failing in even its most basic objective, to stop people from drinking -- than alcohol prohibition. Except for perhaps marijuana prohibition. Alcohol prohibition mercifully lasted only thirteen years, while marijuana prohibition has been pursued in earnest for at least 40 years, and still exists nationally and in every state.
Pastor Enyart spends the factual portion of his essay on the issue of whether marijuana is harmful, but never completes the logical link. In this, he commits the typical Prohibitionist error: the solution lies in government. The pastor asks us to simply assume that if something is "wrong" (in his opinion), then government should ban it. But even a violation of only two or three of the Ten Commandments consist of criminal law violations in this and nearly every other nation on Earth.
Even without the link, the foundation of the pastor's factual argument is built on sand. Cannabis is not only less harmful than alcohol, approximately 17,000 scientific studies have been conducted on the effects of cannabis. Unfortunately, other nations lead the scientific frontiers, since the United States Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") enforces an Orwellian information bottleneck here, probably fearing the loss of DEA jobs if truth is examined.
The pastor's concession, at the outset, that medical marijuana is acceptable, not sinful, not harmful, is good and right, and thus ought to be legal, exposes the weakness in the prohibitionist position. Mere laws cannot end, or even reduce, human demand for cannabis. Incidentally, this position puts Pastor Enyart to the left of the Obama administration, which has opted to use our scarce taxpayer dollars in attacking even the medical use of marijuana. Pastor Enyart's concession also firms up the link between marijuana prohibitionists and their philosophical forebears, the alcohol prohibitionists, who also conceded the "medicinal" use of alcohol. Prohibition also allowed the "spiritual" use of booze, for Catholic communion wine. Certainly, 100% of that wine was directly used by parishioners in communion ceremonies.
Pastor: "It's wrong to get high." Human beings "get high" from thousands of things, some of them drugs, most of them not; athletics, physical exertion, faith, nature, philosophy, music, poetry, laughter, literature, movies, animals, sports watching, or just about anything. There is nothing "wrong" with pursuing happiness. In this contention, the prohibitionist mentality shines through clearly.
Brief personal aside: in debating this issue for a decade, I am struck by the difficulty of locating advocates for the current policy of marijuana prohibition. Perhaps it is Politics 101: front-runners don't debate, and here, prohibitionists are the front-runners. Marijuana for recreation is still illegal in all 50 states, and other than Colorado this year, there is no honest effort to change this at the state or federal levels, Congress and the executive branch are the pictures of inaction and cowardice, and both parties are equally liable.
Accordingly, Pastor Enyart deserves respect for even doing this debate, when the government stormtroopers obtaining their paychecks from the Drug War Industrial Complex will not deign to explain or justify the policy. And Pastor Enyart provides a window into the real reasons for prohibition, that true definition of morality: "The sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having a good time." At least Pastor Enyart is forthcoming about why he thinks the answer to the putative marijuana problem is to place adult human beings in cold steel cages away from their homes, families, children, friends, and jobs. Most prohibitionists hide behind sanitized platitudes, but Enyart is real: marijuana is a sin, so America should judge, ridicule, and isolate "pothead" sinners ("smoking pot makes you slow and stupid"), and the government should place these sinners in jail. (Much of the New Testament was written in jail by inmates, interestingly.)
Finally, Pastor Enyart breathes life into the ultimate Reefer Madness-inspired argument: "And pot's quick intoxicating effect will weaken a man's moral compass and then, as the Bible warns of drunkenness, increase his lust for other women." Remember, the pastor concedes that medical marijuana is acceptable. Do not millions of American men take Viagra and Cialis, with a physician's medical blessing, specifically to increase their lust for women?
Some might argue that a plant which increases lust and passion, organically, without synthetic pills, would be a good thing for this soft and complacent America.
Marijuana is already "normalized." The majority of Americans have used it. Michael Phelps won a record number of Olympic Gold Medals and used marijuana. The last three presidents of the United States used it. The only difference between these presidents and my clients is that the latter were caught, and the former were not, and thus had political viability and careers which they then used to persecute marijuana consumers.
Legalize it. Stop locking Americans in cages for a plant.
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