Legalizing Marijuana: The Dividing Line
Wed, 12 Feb 2003 - Valencia Source (FL)
- Website: www.valenciasource.com
Author: Rebecca Van Cour
Students and faculty debate the legalization of narcotics
"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 own homes.
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 to jail."
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," said Merlin.
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
"Nobody is out in the streets shooting each other over
buying and selling alcohol because it is legal," said Chambless.
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
"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 their hands.
Both sides agreed that with rights come responsibilities.
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."