On Thursday, Corban Debate and CLT Student Initiatives presented the “Light it or Fight it” debate, which consisted of students presenting the pros and cons of Oregon Measure 91.
Corban Debate member Bethany Janzen emceed the night and introduced the members of the teams. Speaking in favor of Measure 91 were Corban Debate members Aaron Green and Olivia Wall; in opposition were David Giglio and Andrew Holcombe.
Janzen began the night by introducing the topic and clarifying that the position the students debated did not necessarily reflect their personal views.
Each speaker had seven minutes for their presentation. The opposing side of the speaker was allowed to ask questions—if the speaker allowed it after the first minute and before the last minute of the presentation. The approximately 30 minutes of presentations by the four speakers was followed by questions from the audience.
Green’s presentation focused on the three main points supporting legalization: the creation of a new economic sector, an increase in tax revenues and an increase in public safety. This position argues that legalization of marijuana would undermine the power of cartels and create a legal, safer alternative to marijuana that is going to be consumed regardless of legalization. This alternative means would also be regulated by the government, and tax revenue from sale of marijuana would go back to support law enforcement. To conclude, Green asked whether it was necessary to fight the inevitable.
Giglio took the podium next to present the opposition’s remarks about Measure 91. “At what price?” he asked the audience, questioning whether the benefits were worth the consequences. The first consequence he discussed was the health effects of marijuana use on the user. He then outlined some of the other consequences that could come about as a result of marijuana’s legalization: the lack of a standard and testing method for marijuana DUIs, the ability for cartels to establish home bases and the danger of availability of pot-laced products – pot-tarts, for example. The opposition’s position was that Measure 91 was “a bad law” that allowed people to possess too much pot, failed to resolve potential consequences and was coming too soon after legalization two years ago in Colorado and Washington.
Wall gave the support’s second presentation and reaffirmed that the benefits of Measure 91 outweigh its flaws. She said “use won’t skyrocket with legalization” in response to Giglio’s statements, citing statistics from Colorado. She also said that vehicle accident statistics are not conclusive. Regarding the harm or deaths of children due to pot-laced products, she said this was less likely than death by vending machine. Finally, she explained that the law of supply-and-demand would force cartels out of power as the government would offer a cheaper, safer product than what cartels could offer, leaving rational consumers to most likely purchase the government product.
Holcombe closed the speech portion of the night; he sought to answer the question of “why pass flawed legislation when it can be modified?” According to Holcombe, the timing for the law is poor because there is no long-term data to base it on. He explained the opposition’s statements regarding the possible increase of cartel power, as cartels could grow legal pot in Oregon and then ship it other states. He restated that Measure 91 allows too much pot per person; each individual would be allowed the approximate equivalent of 300 joints at their home, plus more in pot-products. The opposition’s suggestion was that Oregon should wait for a number of years to collect long-term data from the cases of Washington and Colorado before passing marijuana legalization legislation. During this time lawmakers could refine the legislation, collect and study the data and develop proper methods of enforcement and testing. He said Measure 91 was “a horrible solution to a clear and present problem.”
After the presentations, the debate was opened to audience questions. Some questions asked included the effects of marijuana use on the brain (which Giglio answered with pictures showing brain damage after use), comparisons of marijuana legalization to similar legislation passed by other countries as well as to prohibition and whether the black market could benefit from legalization.
Voting for Measure 91 and other measures ends on Tuesday.