Wed, 12 Feb 2003 - Valencia Source
Author: Rebecca Van Cour
Legalizing marijuana: the dividing line
Students and faculty debate the legalization
"Where do we draw the line?"
asked Jack Chambless as he addressed students and faculty expressing
his support for the legalization of marijuana.
We are allowed to have abortions, smoke
cigarettes, drink alcohol and eat at Burger King all day, every
day if we choose, yet we cannot use drugs in the privacy of our
Chambless spoke at the forum on legalizing
drugs sponsored by the Students for Liberty on Jan. 30, advocating
that people should be able to put whatever they want in their
bodies as long as what they put in does not harm anyone else.
Christa Watson of Students for Liberty
said the club is not for or against the legalization of drugs.
"We all have separate opinions," said Watson, "But
we do feel that the information should be out for people to make
their own decisions."
The group selected the speakers for the forum, including their
own advisor, Jack Chambless.
Deborah Orr of the Center for Drug Free
Living said that marijuana cannot be legalized because though
the economy would benefit financially from drug tax money and
through money saved on convicted drug offenders, the cost to
society greatly outweighs the benefits.
"This is not about morals," said
Orr. "Once you take the lid off of cocaine, crack, ecstacy,
etc., the economy will go up, but increased health and social
costs will rise over the savings. Medically, when you legalize
drugs, you increase diseases like HIV in society."
John Chase, a retired engineer and an adviser
of the November Coalition helping families of drug victims, told
students and faculty about two chronic pain patients who were
on trial for possession and trafficking of Percocet pills.
In Florida, possession of as few as 13
Percocet pills can incur a sentence of 25 years in prison.
"If they are acquitted," Chase
said, "the government will go after their doctors who prescribed
the pills, and they will be even more limited in prescribing
drugs for pain relief."
Nora Callahan, director of the November
Coalition supports legalization because her brother was charged
for cocaine possession and put in prison for over twenty years.
While visiting her brother in federal prison,
she noticed that most of the people in jail with him for drug
possession were minorities and low-income workers. "The
rich people who become addicted [to drugs] get checked into the
Betty Ford Clinic," said Callahan. "The poor just go
Lisa Merlin, co-founder of the Lisa Merlin
House rehabilitating young girls addicted to drugs and alcohol
opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs. "There
is a difference between use and abuse," she said.
When Merlin was 14 years old, she started
drinking socially and said that eventually she upgraded to pills
and other drugs turning to prostitution to pay for them. "I
became totally powerless to these drugs and it ruined my life,"
At 29, Merlin went through rehab, and now leads a drug-free life.
She said that she is baffled by the support of legalization.
Merlin agreed that what you do behind closed
doors is your business, but once you get behind the wheel, it
becomes society's business.
"Nobody is out in the streets shooting
each other over buying and selling alcohol because it is legal,"
Following the speakers, the forum was opened
to comments from students and faculty. Students involved had
so many questions, that after the forum had officially ended,
many stayed for half an hour later and continued the debate.
"If we can take the luster off the
drugs, then the drugs will take care of themselves," said
student Loyd Cadwell who felt that if drugs become legal, the
fun and danger of these substances will lose popularity.
To reassure people who were worried that
drugs being sold in an honest market would tempt more people
to use them, Chambless used an example of members of the forum
who chose not to smoke cigarettes.
"If a pack of cigarettes went down
to five cents tomorrow, how many of you would start smoking?"
Chambless felt his point was made when nobody in the room raised
Both sides agreed that with rights come
Chase, in answering a question from the
floor about religious views on marijuana said "We have a
natural right to life, liberty and property. Young people today
who like the legalization part don't like the responsibility
part. We need to accept both."
(Above & Below): Journey for Justice - Valencia
Community College panel & debate, Orlando, FL, Thursday,
January 30, 2003
Nora Callahan, November Coalition
John Chase, November Coalition
For complete Journey coverage, visit The Journey For Justice Archive.