Debaters hash out marijuana policies

Nikki Wee

Students filed into a nearly full Coffman Union Great Hall on Monday to listen to a debate on the legalization of marijuana.

On one side stood Steve Hager pointing out the merits of legalization. On the opposing end was Bob Stutman.

Hager, the former editor in chief of High Times magazine, creator of the Cannabis Cup and “the most famous pothead in America” stood up against former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Stutman, dubbed the “most famous narc in America.”

Mattie Hawley, a student activities adviser, said the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council forum leaders have been trying to get the debaters to come to campus for almost two years.

Monday night, about 800 people showed up for the debate.

“I think it’s a testament to the fact that this is an interesting topic to students,” Hawley said. “I was really nervous that the crowd would react to one side only, but it looks like they are reacting to both speakers.”

Through Wolfman Productions, Hager and Stutman have traveled to college campuses across the nation to debate the issue of marijuana use and the war on drugs.

First-year student Aaron Moerke said he heard about the event through fliers posted around campus and thought it would be interesting.

“I’m sure a lot of kids are like me and are just curious to see what they have to say,” he said.

Ryan Schott, a mechanical engineering first-year student, said he didn’t attend because he didn’t think the debate would be effective.

“I don’t think that the government will change the laws on marijuana usage no matter how good of a reason they give,” Schott said.

Many students went into the debate with opinions on whether marijuana should be legalized.

Public relations junior Israel Garavito said it should remain illegal.

“I think it’s a matter of principles and the example we set as the number one country in the world,” Garavito said.

On the other hand, sophomore Tony Portz said the government has worse crimes to deal with, like murder.

“If people are going to do drugs, they’re going to do it whether or not it’s legal,” Portz said. “What I have a problem with is people harming other people.”

Stutman said he hopes the debate achieves two things – first to knock down the stereotypes students on either side might have, and second to get students thinking.

“The most important thing to me is when a student comes to me after the debate and says ‘I don’t agree with you, but you made me think,’ ” Stutman said. “To me, the whole purpose of college is to make you think.”

Hawley agreed with Stutman.

“We’re certainly not trying to promote drug use; it’s educational,” she said. “We’re giving students information so they can make their own decisions about this topic.”

Hager said he hopes to get a legalization group started on campus. Seventy percent of the schools he speaks at that don’t already have such a group start one after his debate, he said.

While Hager and Stutman come from different sides of the issue, Stutman said the two are good friends.

“We disagree vehemently on the issue, but we never attack each other personally.”