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NORML’s Russ Belville vs. former ONDCP’s Dr. Kevin Sabet on Marijuana Legalization at James A. Baker Institute (VIDEO)

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator March 11, 2012

    DFW NORML's "Truth Enforcement Vehicle" was parked out front of the Baker Institute flashing the green lights to lead people to the event.

    My undying thanks go out to The James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy for the invitation to participate in this illustrious event. I learned so much from the incredible presentations of Rev. Edwin Sanders, Sen. Larry Campbell, Prof. Alex Stevens, Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Prof. Michelle Alexander, and everyone who participated.

    I also thank the crews from DFW NORML, Houston NORML, and NORML of Waco Inc. for showing up with the Truth Enforcement Vehicle, putting on a great fundraiser, and showing me a NORML (if a little traffic-laden) good time in H-town.  (Once again, like last year, wherever I go, Portland-like rain follows me, leading Professor Bluntston to exclaim, “Russ ‘Break It Down’ Belville done brought the rain!”)

    Debating Kevin Sabet was fun.  Before we went up, he thanked me for devoting half of my show to him (it was only a quarter, but whatever) and suggested that maybe it isn’t a good idea for me to give up my whole debate strategy before the debate.  I told him that when you have truth, facts, logic, and reason on your side, you don’t have to have much of a strategy.

    Please take the time to watch the other videos from presenters at the Baker Institute.  I’m flattered by all the hits my video is getting, but you’ll learn a whole lot more from the learned people on the other videos.

    160 Responses to “NORML’s Russ Belville vs. former ONDCP’s Dr. Kevin Sabet on Marijuana Legalization at James A. Baker Institute (VIDEO)”

    1. Genghis says:

      2.7 million dollars for alcohol related crimes (something that is considered legal)
      847,000 for marijuana related crimes (something that is completely illegal)

      Wouldn’t we SAVE the 847,000 from legalising?

      (I know that DUIs still might occur so 847,000 might be a little overstated, however the point remains.)

    2. Frank says:

      RUSS BELVILLE needs to be the main spokesman for NORML. He’s very good at speaking and using the facts when they’re needed. “Ol Sweaty” had a rough time trying to defend stupidity.

      [Russ responds: Hold on thar, pardner! That’s like saying “Sniper rifles need to be the main weapon of the military!” We’ve got lots of big guns here at NORML and we try to use all of them in the right battles. From our National offices with world-class expertise on cannabis science, DC politics, drug reform history, modern marijuana law, and now, newer younger, more diverse board members and staff, to our network of 177 international chapters from college campuses to Statehouses, staffed by volunteers of every age, gender, ability, race, culture, party, and religion, NORML has always been the Pot Smoker’s Lobby! I’m just honored to have been lucky enough to catch the breaks I needed to get to do this job.

      And give “ol Sweaty” a break… it was kind of warm and humid in there.]

    3. Danny says:

      I would have to say my favorite point raised during the entirety of the discussion was addressing what constitutes abuse. I cannot recall the number of times I have heard people bring this up. I have friends that do not smoke, toke only on weekends, and whenever they’re within reaching distant of their piece. Some of them I would not consider particularly level-headed and/or intelligent, but notice how I don’t say of which group they belong. I’ve heard in the past, from quite a few friends, this phrase: “Yeah, but you’re not smoking all of the time like them. They’re so burnt out.” To which I reply, “I’ve already smoked X times today.” Usually that X is anywhere from three to nine times. Hearing me tell them that always seems to put something in perspective. The thing being, of course, that it really is predisposition to abuse which can be tackled in a much more cost efficient, less intrusive, and logical policy towards marijuana. So hearing the audience respond in a positive manner to that sort of statement brought a smile to my face. I hope to see more discussions like this in the future. Maybe Obama will eventually stay true to his word.

      [Russ responds: This is a trick I learned from NORML Advisory Board Member Rick Steves, who once said (paraphrased), “Be the kind of pot smoker that other people can’t help but like.” So I’m not afraid to say “But Kevin, I’m that guy, I’m that 9% that goes on to ‘dependence’, whatever that is. I’m smoking pot five to seven times a day, every day!” I wanted that audience to think, “Well, he’s kinda animated, but he doesn’t seem scary, and it looks like he can clean up nice and work hard and gosh, how does he remember all those statistics off the top of his head if he smokes so much pot?”

      That’s how YOU can be an ACTivist. By just being a positive example of a pot smoker. By showing people they have nothing to fear about us, and locking us up is just costing them money and not stopping us.]

    4. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know in Connecticut!

    5. Owen says:

      Russ, you fucked up when you said your dad was addicted to marijuana. There is no addiction to marijuana.

      [Russ responds: I disagree. That is what my father believes. Use of alcohol, speed, and marijuana were detrimental to him. He went into treatment to stop doing those substances. He hasn’t used them since 1980.

      There can be “addiction” to anything, but I hate throwing that word around, so, in a sense, I kind of agree with you, in that my dad’s addiction to marijuana was in no way as detrimental or difficult to recover from than his addiction to speed and alcohol… or for that matter, tobacco, which he didn’t kick until 1996. But marijuana use was not positive for him. It’s not positive for everyone. We do our cause a disservice to just throw out a blanket statement like “There is no addiction to marijuana” because it will face the reality some listeners have experienced personally or seen personally, i.e., the “burn-out stoner”.

      The question is, and I used my dad example for this, is “does even the worst marijuana ‘addict’ deserve a cage or forced rehab?” I didn’t get to tell how my dad went to rehab, which was not because a cop or court forced him to (and that never would have worked anyway), but because he stood on the edge of the Snake River Bridge in Payette, Idaho, one night and was about to jump, when Jesus told him to go get treatment so he could care for his family. Yes, Jesus. My father to this day believes it was only Divine Intervention that kept him from suiciding that night.

      We have gambling ‘addicts’, shopping ‘addicts’, hoarders, sex ‘addicts’, overeaters, bulimics, religious zealots, and yes, even some dysfunctional potheads in the world. But we only lock up that last category, and then even when they are not dysfunctional. That’s the point I was trying to make.]

      What was waiting for was a comment like this to start your discussion:

      Marijuana prohibition was founded on a bold faced lie . That lie has morphed into a masterpiece in the art of brainwashing.

      Any law based on a lie is no law at all.

    6. john williamson says:

      i love you russ and norml. i think you guys have taken a path in performing a miracle for the betterment of humanity. in my eyes that is the best path one can take in this life. you are the real life val kilmer in the movie the saint, you are the modern day rosa parks who refuses evil regardless of what form it may present itself and when your goal is acheived you will see this country doing well again and being the great place we love it for..

    7. […] NORML’s Russ Belville vs. former ONDCP’s Dr. Kevin Sabet on Marijuana Legalization at James A. B… My undying thanks go out to The James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy for the invitation to participate in this illustrious event. I learned so much from the incredible presentations of Rev. Edwin Sanders, Sen. Larry Campbell, Prof. Alex Stevens, Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Prof. Michelle Alexander, and everyone who participated. I also thank the crews from DFW NORML, Houston NORML, and NORML of Waco Inc. for showing up with the Truth Enforcement Vehicle, putting on a great fundraiser, and showing me a NORML (if a little traffic-laden) good time […] […]

    8. Jeedi says:

      Russ, you are a rock star! Awesome defense to this guy’s government polished attack. Anybody who wants to see Obama’s answer about pot needs to see this video. But there whole argument is based on the promise that marijuana consumers are all drug addicts and need interdiction. Notice how this guy referred to marijuana users as “zombies.” His whole case was built upon the fact that marijuana is so dangerous that the cost to enforce it are justified.

      The only way to defend against this sort of an attack is to counter it by legitimizing the marijuana consumer and marijuana effects.

      First of all, marijuana effects people differently. I get there are some people that smoke pot and then get silly and stupid, munch on some junk food and fall asleep on the couch. But then there are people who get stoned and “build a bridge!” Experienced users can easily do chores or home projects, like tending a garden, or landscaping or painting the bathroom. There are people who get stoned and write and sing songs. There are people who get stoned and have great sex. There are people who get stoned and create great works of art. There are people who get stoned and invent great things for mankind. There are people who get stoned and walk their pets in the sunshine. There are people who get stoned and write important books. There are people who get stoned and then play video games better. Etc., etc., etc. People don’t get stoned and then become whacked-out zombies!

      In other words marijuana consumers are not sick addicts, but rather NORML productive people. And I am sick and tired of marijuana consumers being equated to societal trash. The marijuana high does not make you a zombie, it allows you to go inside and pull out more creative insight. Marijuana amplifies reality, and allows a person to taste, touch, hear, feel or think things without preconditioned responses based on upbringing or the collective consciousness of society, for examples. In other words, marijuana frees the mind. The marijuana consumer needs to be discussed and legitimized by using examples from history like Carl Sagan… AND Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Wiz Kalifa, Barack Obama, Jack Nicholson, Montel Williams, Bruce Lee, Andrew Weil, Sigmund Freud, etc., etc.,

      • Thanks, Jeedi. There is so much more in my notes I didn’t get to say. I did get a Carl Sagan reference in there. I wanted to say, “Look, any herb that Carl Sagan, Michael Phelps, Willie Nelson, and 60% of the NBA can use while achieving at the top of their professions doesn’t scare me much.” When he went the “drive and build a bridge while smoking tobacco” I wanted to launch into “I work from 8am to 10pm every day, writing thousands of words, producing hours of internet video, interviewing PhDs and cops, analyzing statistics, creating graphic designs, and managing 177 NORML chapters worldwide… and I am smoking pot as I accomplish all that. I am literally doing four jobs simultaneously – board op, video op, engineer, and host – live two hours a day every day. Before that, I was a corporate trainer, getting up at 6am, not smoking at all, wearing a suit and teaching complex software, getting stellar reviews, and then I’d come home at 6pm and smoke pot. I haven’t had so much as a traffic ticket in the 21st Century. What are you so afraid of, Kevin?”

        Only in re-watching the video did I catch more of what his argument is really based on. Did you catch where he is trying to downplay the emotional side of the argument, admitting he’s only 33, but he talked with the older folks and that much of their emotion was tied to their friends getting busted for protesting Vietnam? Um, no, much of our emotion is tied to seeing videos like this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russ-belville/columbia-missouri-swat-ki_b_567172.html

        I kept trying to “keep it personal”. “So we need to lock me up because some kid might smoke a joint?” “So we need to lock me up because some stoner might get behind the wheel?” It is incumbent upon us, as Dr. Sabet alluded to the “Drink Responsibly” ads, to model how to “Toke Responsibly”. We have to be the examples to the American people that yes, people you know smoke pot and they cause you no harm and they are productive vital members of society.

    9. JC says:

      I think Russ did a fine job as an advocate for legalization, and I somewhat agree with Owen in that Cannabis is not addicting. The reason I say somewhat is because like Russ, I have had many friends and family members who have struggled with substance abuse, and I have observed that people with substance abuse problems, have a general tendency to be unable to control their overindulgence in almost any substance, be it sugar, drugs, sex or whatever, that is why members of AA/NA have to attend meetings forever, they need that constant reminder. Having said that, responsible adults who use Cannabis need to be allowed to do so without consequences. I will not stand for anyone telling me what to do with my mind body and soul, now or ever….unless Im in a cage.

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