Debate Explores Highs, Lows of Marijuana

The counterculture met the drug enforcement contingent Thursday night, arguing both sides of marijuana legalization in a debate, “Heads versus Feds.”

Bob Stutman, a retired special agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and Steve Hager, former editor of High Times magazine, spoke and took questions from 400 students packed in Memorial Hall at the University of Kentucky.

The debate, held by the Student Activities Board, was a stop on an annual tour of more than 40 colleges for the two men.

Hager, who edited the marijuana-savvy magazine for 15 years, offered five reasons why marijuana should be legalized: its medicinal values, the money it costs the prison systems, the corruption brought on by drug money, hemp’s environmental values and its importance to the counter culture.

Stutman, who was the head of New York City’s DEA office in the 1980s, said those were nothing but excuses.

“Most who want it legalized, don’t really want it for those five reasons,” Stutman said. “They want it as a recreational drug of choice.” Marijuana interferes with reason, causes accidents and can cause head and neck cancer, Stutman said.

The ‘head’ and the ‘fed’ countered each other energetically, rousing frequent applause from the audience. One of Stutman’s arguments was that natural substances aren’t necessarily safe.

“If doing it yourself is a good science, then why didn’t Jonas Salk try the polio vaccine on himself?” Stutman asked. “That argument is a bunch of crap.”

Hager did argue that smoking marijuana is as dangerous as smoking any substance. Holding up a Grow magazine cover with a photo of a vaporizer on it, Hager said marijuana is better consumed in healthier ways.

“Drink it in tea, put it in brownies or use a state of the art vaporizer, like this,” he said. Hager also argued that tremendous money is wasted criminalizing marijuana and feeding corruption.

Billions of dollars buy “a lot of dirty cops, people!” Hager said.

The two were vehement about their sides of the issue, but both said that hasn’t diminished their respect for each other. The men have become best friends since meeting at their first debate three years ago.

Common interests rise above personal attacks, they said. Both like riding motorcycles and love talking politics.

Stutman said that it’s important to show college students that while two people may have disagreements and come from two different backgrounds, they still respect each other.

Both took questions from the audience and students asked about the criminalization of marijuana compared to alcohol, how hemp would help struggling Kentucky farmers and the state of the health care system. Students appreciated the lively debate and said the two sides were well represented.

“I think they (both) were the most qualified,” said undeclared freshman Laura Reynolds. “Steve [Hager] introduced a lot of topics that I’d never thought about.”

“Marijuana smokers shouldn’t be treated like criminals,” said David Lander, a public administration sophomore. But Lander said controls should be placed, like any other enforced law.