ACLU-FedSoc Debate Draws Large Crowd
The BLS ACLU and Federalist Society held their fall debate on October 11 in front of a packed student lounge. This year’s topic was the decriminalization of marijuana, a longtime point of contention that has recently found its way back into the news, with Congress currently debating a bill to decriminalize the drug and many state governments considering changes in their criminal drug laws.
Two students debated on each side: Sarah DeStefano, ’12, and Randal Meyer, ’14, for the Federalist Society, and Adam Bird, ’14, and Brian Zapert, ’13, for the ACLU. Each side was entitled to a 7-minute opening comment, a five-minute rebuttal and a 2-minute final rebuttal at their discretion.
Upon winning the coin toss, Bird kicked off the debate for the ACLU. The crux of his argument was that the law and policy around marijuana use in this country needs to change. Bird bolstered this argument by citing the lack of a single medically documented death from marijuana consumption, as opposed to alcohol consumption. He also argued that “marijuana consumption leads to violence” only because the sellers of marijuana are criminals, and as in the prohibition era, “disputes cannot be solved except by violence.” As an alternative to the current system, he suggested cutting down on arrests for simple possession of marijuana.
“The sensible thing to do, and I think most of you agree, is a system of regulation and taxation on marijuana in the same way alcohol is taxed and regulated,” Bird said.
Meyer opened his argument for The Federalist Society by quoting The Big Lebowski, and noting the negative health effects of marijuana. As a matter of policy, he argued, there is “no reason to permit the availability of marijuana to everyone when you can limit it to cancer patients.”
While conceding that criminal law around marijuana use is overly harsh, he suggested reforming the system by imposing a fine on users of small amounts of marijuana instead of imprisoning them.
The debate shifted focus from crim law to con law when panelists began to argue over federalism, the supremacy clause and the racially disparate results of prosecuting marijuana use.
Though the debaters declined to devote debate time to questions of philosophy and morality, the FedSoc debaters summed up the morality issue by posing a simple question: “Do we really want our justice system to be undermined because we want to allow weed as a country?”
Photos courtesy of Liz Komar.