The Great Debate: DEA Agent, High Times Editor
US MO: Edu: The Great Debate: DEA Agent, High Times Editor
by Melissa McCrary, (20 Mar 2006) Current Missouri
Not surprisingly, a former DEA agent and the editor of High Times magazine had widely differing views on the question of marijuana legalization.
At "The Great Debate" on Thursday night in the Millennium Student Center, Robert Stutman, a retired special agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency, had a heated debate with Steve Hager, editor in chief of High Times magazine.
Stutman, who has been called "the most famous narc in America," by New York Magazine and has made numerous television appearances including on "Today," "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours," became a special agent in charge for the New York City office in 1985. He worked for 25 years with the DEA, making more than 15,000 arrests on drug charges.
After retiring from the DEA, Stutman went on to found a consulting firm that works with substance abuse prevention programs. He has also made numerous presentations in 73 countries and has written a best-selling autobiography titled "Dead on Delivery."
His opponent, Hager, grew up in Champagne, Ill., where in high school, he said he never really knew what drugs were. He moved to San Francisco and created the "Tin Whistle," an underground magazine that was distributed and banned from four high schools.
Hager worked as a reporter for the New York Daily News, where he became interested and began investigating works of graffiti art. After working as a reporter, he became the editor in chief of High Times magazine, the founder of the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam and a member of the Rainbow Family of Living Light.
Each speaker was given the opportunity to present their arguments for 15 minutes.
Hager went first, and gave five main arguments for the legalization of marijuana.
Hager said marijuana plants are good for the environment, have medicinal value and are tied closely to his own counterculture spiritual movement. He also argued that keeping drugs illegal promotes corruption in law enforcement and government and that imprisoning drug users promotes the cycle of criminal behavior.
He said that marijuana is the most useful treatment than any substance under the sun and that he has known people who are alive and can now see because of the drug.
Hagar went on to discuss how healthcare systems are reaping in billions of dollars out of the system and how the costs of healthcare has been skyrocketing and their quality has been declining.
"I believe this system is broken," he said. "The life expectancy is going down, not up. They don't care if you become addicted or if you choose to get high; they have drugs to give you as long as you pay for them."
Prozac, Zoloft and Adderall, were just a few of the examples of other highly addictive drugs that he said can cause problems.
"After 15 years, they are giving you medicines to counteract and to correct problems from original medicines," he said. "They are force feeding the generation these drugs. When I hand you a marijuana seed, I'm handing you free medicine for the rest of your life."
His next point of view brought up the fact how there have been numerous things made out of hemp.
"Every soldier at Valley Ford wore uniforms made out of marijuana. The first American flag was made out of marijuana. Over 20,000 different things were being made when they decided to legalize it."
He said that cellophane, paper, plastics, dynamite were made out of it and now they are being made out of petrochemicals, which has been the major cause of pollution and cancer.
"We are living in a petrochemical soaked society and we need to get to a new natural society."
People being charged and locked up in prisons is a major concern to him because he feels that when a judge gives someone a mandatory minimum sentence in jail, they do not come out rehabilitated. In his opinion, locking people up creates bigger problems down the line.
"We don't have mandatory minimum sentences for people who commit rape or murder, but we have them for people who cultivate marijuana."
He said that the personal reason why he thinks it should be made legal has to do with his culture.
"I went to the first Woodstock concert. We shared everything. I never saw a fight or an argument. Every year we have a National Rainbow Gathering, where we pray for world peace. We don't do marijuana in front of our kids," he said. "We are profiled up and down in America and are hated because of our culture."
Stutman began his argument by saying, "The most important thing I will say tonight is that we disagree about this subject, but you will never see us attack each other. We are very close and personal friends. He believes in this issue, but he forgot to mention a few things."
Immediately attacking Hagan's view, Stutman said how Hagan said that drug companies will never back America because it is not a synthetic, but how he forgot to mention that a brand new synthetic device was approved eight months ago.
"It isn't because of hemp or cultural reasons, most people want it legalized so that they can get high. His magazine is called High Times, not religious times or cultural times." Stutman said. "He intellectualized the debate. He told you that its a great medicine, but of the 435 chemicals in marijuana, one of them-maybe two might be good medicines."
According to him, any doctor who tells people to smoke something to make them healthy, is a fool. He said that he does not think people should have the right to vote for medicines when they are not doctors. He said that if marijuana is legalized, it will have far more users.
The risks of using the drug included how there are 10 times more users of alcohol than marijuana, it affects the sense of depth perception, causes dependence and interferes with one's ability to learn and think.
Losing his sister, who died of breast cancer at the age of 42, is Stutman's personal reason why he wants marijuana to stay illegal. He said that right b efore she died, she asked him, "Why me?" He said that three peer review medical studies and scientific journals have all said that marijuana probably contributes to lung cancer.
"If this research is right, some of you, 20 to 25 years from now will die of lung cancer. Seventy-one percent of Americans believe that it should not be made legal. I absolutely support Steve for wanting to do it, but he has tried 19 times and has lost," he said. "The day that the majority of the people, the courts and scientists decide to make it legal, I will support it."
Before opening the discussion up for audience questions and comments, Stutman warned the group, "I look forward to your challenges."
One of the comments disputed had to do with healthcare and tax revenues.
Stutman said, "They won't have health care, but give them marijuana and they will be too damn happy to care about it."
"You are talking about marijuana health issues, but what about the health concerns of alcohol and nicotine," said Justin Williams, senior, pre-med and engineering.
Over 10 students stood in line to ask a question at the podium, including Dan Dilber, junior, secondary education.
Dilber directed his remark towards Stutman and said that imiting choices is tyranny.
"If there was no black market with cocaine, your buddy would be alive, so why are you denying this free market," Dilber said.
The question and answer became intense when Stutman interrupted Dilber and Dilber said that it was his turn to speak.
"This is a democracy not an anarchy," Stutman said. "We have a system in the country to change rules. When you are on the Supreme Court, you can make that decision."
Towards the end of the debate, Hagar tried making a proposition with Stutman, that made the audience laugh hysterically, including Stutman himself.
"Bob has your best interests at heart, but I would like to formally invite him on an all expense paid vacation, to go to Amsterdam and attend the Cannabis Cup. I am looking forward to getting high with Bob," Hagar said. "And we are not going to smoke it, we are going to vaporize it and listen to Bob Marley."