The medical marijuana debate has gone on for several years and continues to be a large controversy. While many see its benefits, others think that it causes more harm than good.
Medical marijuana has become legal in 21 states including California, Colorado and New Jersey, according to norml.org/states. The University of Tampa hosted a debate Monday night that was open to the public, which discussed the legalization of medical marijuana being added to the November 2014 ballot.
About 1,000 students, faculty and members of the Tampa community filled the stands and additional chairs in the Martinez Athletic Center. Several local media stations like Fox 13 News and Bay News 9 flocked to UT to cover the debate, and at the end of the night some spectators were even forced to leave the debate for being rowdy.
Local attorney John Morgan and Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), argued for legalization while Dr. Eric Voth, chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, and Kevin Sabet, the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, argued against.
Sabet and Voth voiced their thoughts about the regulation of the drug, who would be allowed to have access to it and whether smoking marijuana should be considered medicine.
“Legalization is the end game and marijuana lobby is driving that. They’re targeting youth and doing the same thing that the tobacco companies did to my generation,” Voth said. “They’ve brought you a Trojan horse… don’t let them tell you it’s about medicine.”
Morgan wanted to include the ability to have home grown marijuana and have it prescribed by a psychologist, but both weren’t included. But psychiatrists with an M.D. are allowed to.
“I don’t trust the FDA. I don’t trust the government. I trust an organic plant. There haven’t been any deaths because of the use of marijuana,” Morgan said.
Throughout the debate, both sides veered from the point and made attacks on each other whether or not it was about the position they were on or an opponent’s personal background.
Many of those who attended the debate were incredibly passionate as many wore “Vote to Toke” shirts or “Support Medical Marijuana.” While those who opposed the issue wore shirts that said “No to Grow” and weren’t afraid to argue with those who were for the argument.
“I think it’s silly,” said Patrick Rooney, a member of the Tampa community and former UT student. “It’s still a discussion at the medical level. If it works for people why not? The government should have much less say over what medical professionals can and can’t prescribe, especially when it’s involving an incredibly benign psychoactive plant.”
But while those who supported the cause spoke their mind, those who opposed it weren’t scared to voice their opinions as well.
“The way the bill is written will give practically anyone access to the drug. If the bill was written differently and more safeguards were added so only people who really need it can get it, then I would side with it. People who really need it would ﬁt in the category of cancer patients or glaucoma patients and maybe some other horriﬁc diseases,” said Andrew Buckley, a freshman business and management major.
Martinez was filled with screaming and overly passionate fans, some of whom were dragged out and escorted off campus premises, one of the things that was most memorable for the students who attended the debate.
“Well, I think [the student] should have been asked to leave,” said Donald Raab, a senior and exercise science major. “Unfortunately, he was acting a bit more aggressive directly towards the debaters even after the time expired. I feel the situation could have escalated if security didn’t step in.”
Khadijah Khan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org