On Nov. 9, the first talk held by the Student Government Association (SGA) Lectures and Comedy Committee was held. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Kevin Booth visited to discuss the legalization of marijuana in the United States.
Booth began his lecture by surveying the audience. He asked how many students there drank alcohol, had tried a cigarette, or were regular cigarette smokers. He went on to ask who in the audience had ever smoked marijuana and then, “Is anybody stoned right now?” There was a smatter of laughter and a few students raised their hands.
Booth’s most recently released film is called “How Weed Won the West.” The film gives an overview of the growth and production of cannabis in California and the gradual acceptance of cannabis as a medical and dietary supplement. Throughout the lecture, Booth showed clips from the documentary broken up with comments from him and questions answered from the audience.
One thing pointed out in the film is how much money the U.S. could make from the legalization of marijuana. First, money would be saved from ending enforcement; there are about 800,000 arrests per year related to enforcement alone. Secondly, about five to ten billion dollars per year could be gained from marijuana purchases, benefiting the U.S. economy, according to Booth.
In Northern California, the Emerald Triangle is known as the place to grow the best cannabis. Pineapple Kush owns hundreds of square miles of land where they grow cannabis. According to Booth, it is “nothing but high end marijuana.” Pineapple Kush is grown mostly for the purpose of producing medical marijuana, used to help relieve pain and discomfort.
“This should be a game changer for everyone,” said Booth as a way to introduce his next point. The U.S., since 2003, has held a patent for cannabinoids, which are a class of chemical compounds that can be found in the cannabis plant. The patent itself states that cannabinoids, “are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
However, the U.S. has categorized marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Drugs are categorized based on their potential for abuse, medical benefits and lack of accepted safety. A Schedule I drug is the most dangerous kind of drug, with high abuse potential and no medical merits. Other drugs that are categorized as Schedule I are heroine and ecstasy. The placement of marijuana in Schedule I is highly controversial, especially since the U.S. itself owns the patent reviewing its medical benefits.
“The government is purposefully keeping [marijuana] in Schedule I,” said Booth. “They just say that it’ll take more testing [to prove otherwise]. It’s just going to keep going like this.”
Booth claims the government could control marijuana better if it was taxed and owned as a legal entity. It would be taxed and controlled similarly to alcohol, with buyers being required to show photo identification.
Booth explained that our government could end up like the Mexican government if marijuana is not legalized. In Mexico, Booth says, “It’s like capitalism gone wild.” The Mexican cartels have taken over the government. In the U.S., this would be like if “the CEO of General Motors gunned down the CEO from Ford, got away with it, and then caused General Motors’s bottom line to go up,” said Booth.
“Kids are going to try marijuana. Where do you want them to get it from?” Booth asked the audience. There are no documented deaths from the act of simply smoking marijuana, while there are 150,000 deaths per year from alcohol, according to Booth.
Booth concluded the lecture by discussing some of the medical merits of marijuana. “Weed juice – it’s a plant, y’all. Just remember that when you get pulled over by the cops,” he said. Dense quantities of marijuana can be ingested without getting the additional high by “juicing” the plant. William Courtney, a dietary raw cannabis specialist who spoke in the documentary, said that cannabis is “the most important vegetable on the planet” and should be considered “not a medicine, but a dietary supplement.” So, the user would be able to experience pain relief while still keeping his or her clarity.
Booth left the audience to decide whether or not they were in support of the legalization of marijuana. One audience member stated, “I don’t smoke, but tonight really inspired me.”
“I thought the lecture was really poorly done. I didn’t need to be convinced of anything, but I was disappointed at the lack of information,” said senior Gursharan Bawa. “I was really hoping for the lecture to be more educational.”
“I think the lecturer was not worth the price,” said senior Christiana Teijaro. “I feel like he just repeated the facts that everyone already knows or could look up in 5 minutes online.”