Heads vs. Feds
Marijuana legalization debate draws large crowd
Nevin Jones | reporter
Pitt State students gathered for “Heads vs. Feds,” a spirited debate on the legalization of marijuana, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, in the Crimson and Gold Ballroom.
Bob Stutman, a formal federal agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Steven Hager, former editor of High Times magazine, were the debaters.
Stutman and Hager, known as “the ultimate odd couple,” come from different worlds. Hager is one of the most visible and active proponents of marijuana legalization and is known for founding California’s “Cannabis Cup” and the first national Hemp Tour.
“When we started, one state had medical marijuana, California,” said Hager. “Now 18 states have medical and two have legal marijuana.”
Stutman, however, is known as the “most famous narc in America.” In his 25 years as a DEA agent, he was promoted to special agent in charge of the New York Field Division, the largest division in the country. Stutman sees the legalization of marijuana as a major problem.
“We’ll have far more users on top of the alcohol problem we already have,” said Stutman. “I just think taking the step of legalization is like saying, ‘We have to demolish that building, let’s drop a nuclear bomb on it.’ It takes it a tad step too far.”
The mission of “Heads vs. Feds” is to create a well-balanced community forum for college students on the controversial topic. At first look, one might assume that Stutman and Hager dislike each other, yet that is far from true.
“They will see us argue on stage but they will also see we like each other and respect each other,” Stutman said of his admiration for his opponent.
This aspect is something the 200 or so students who attended picked up and enjoyed, especially Trenda Yanez, sophomore in English education, who cites Hager as a hero of hers.
“I thought it was awesome. I got to meet a major hero of mine. I am so happy,” said Yanez.
Yanez says that Stutman and Hager’s mutually respectful relationship made for a friendlier debate.
“I think that’s the key thing to a really solid debate.”
Students like Hank Chrisman, sophomore in engineering, found the program enlightening.
“I thought it was really informative,” Chrisman said. “I was pretty surprised with the DEA side. I thought it was going to be completely one sided, total bashing, but he persuaded me and made some pretty good points.”
Some students were not as enthusiastic about the presentation and felt that the participants favored ideology over hard facts.
“Honestly, I felt like they argued with each other more than necessary presenting good arguments for their cause,” said Katy Potter, freshman in sociology. “They were throwing around ideas and opinions without backing it up, and I feel like if you don’t back it up with solid, expert studies it doesn’t mean anything.”
Aside from arguments for and against recreational marijuana, civility in debate was another strong message that Stutman and Hager say they had to get across.
“We think it is incredibly important to demonstrate that you don’t have to be disagreeable with someone in order to disagree with them,” Stutman said.