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. War Vet says:

      Mr. PhD’s ideas and education didn’t just go to his head, but to his waistline as well –he is obese. Would this hypocrite mind having the government shut down McDonalds and Coca-Cola . . . how many die from that . . . how much does one’s choice in foods affect our medical care in our nation –how much money do we lose via healthcare . . . how many sick days do obese and diabetic workers take due to their dieting habits biting them. I’m assuming Dr. Sabet drives an automobile to and fro. How much money has dependence on vehicles cost our society in lives and healthcare and property damage? Hypocrite. Does he not care about how many die from car crashes or injured from car crashes? But he wants to keep marijuana outlawed . . . how many people get injured from contact sports –how much money do parents waste because their child got hurt playing soccer or football? He’s 33 yrs old and he wasted his time getting a PhD, while so many of his peers went to war fighting drug money in Afghanistan and Iraq –getting revenge against drug money financed 9/11. He looks at the social costs of a society using tobacco and alcohol stats to keep his ‘just say no’ mind set –but he refuses to look at the fact that the War on Drugs cost America nearly $3 trillion dollars just from 9/11 and her two Middle East drug wars . . . not once did he talk about the how the war on drugs helped create our current unemployment rate and spike in gas prices . . . what’s more harmful –a bit of pot or raising four kids with one employed family member –or a spouse in a war zone fighting drug money?

      [Russ responds: To be fair, I am more obese than Dr. Sabet, by far. Six foot, 260 lbs. Like I meant to say in one of the one-liners I had in my notes, I’m more addicted to fats and sugar than I am marijuana.]

    2. USMC Grunt says:

      I have one question for our government if they are really so concerned about the harm legalizing marijuana will cause the people of this country…..

      Why is alcohol and tobacco legal if it directly kills millions of it’s users (the U.S. population) every year?

      [Russ responds: Dr. Sabet’s answer to that had to do with culture. Seriously, he referred to the “cultural decision” to make alcohol and tobacco legal, and then he said “some would call it a ‘cultural mistake'”. If you needed any more evidence that this is really about a culture war, here it is. He even referred to us having “thousands of years” of norms built around alcohol. I’ll cede that point – marijuana smoking as an American cultural phenomenon is really only a century old and only 50 years in mainstream usage. So if that’s the case, then we can argue at what point have enough people in an underground sub-culture developed norms and achieved enough critical mass to be deemed worthy of not punishing?

      I even had a one-liner ready for that one, “Yes, it was such a mistake to make the two most addictive and toxic recreational drugs legal, so let’s not repeat that mistake by giving people access to the least addictive non-toxic drug? You want to hurt the alcohol companies? I’m the guy who from age 16-22 was the binge drinker you said alcohol companies make their profits on, and since smoking pot at age 22, I drink about two drinks a month.” Alas, in the “heat of battle” I left many of my best arrows in the quiver.]

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    4. Adam says:

      I kept waiting for Kevin Sabet to have an opinion.

      Has he ever spoken in concrete terms about what his public policy would entail?

    5. The g man says:

      Excellent debate! Keeping it personal was the right tactic, especially when he concedes that russ the daily toker doesn’t deserve to be put in jail. That’s when I thought he lost the debate. He’s almost like an apologetic prohibitionist but that’s the only way he can hold his ground. “I’m not going to say you should be locked up but think about the children,
      but before you respond to that I already know it’s readily available to them so don’t use that rebuttal.”

    6. Kathleen says:

      I was surprised Dr. Sabet thought the price of marijuana would drop by 80% if it were legalized. Is this probable? I lived in the Netherlands for a few months and the prices for quality marijuana were only slightly cheaper than in the U.S.(once I converted the euro price to USD). I understand that it is not fully legal in the Netherlands, just tolerated, but I still believe this 80% figure is very high.

    7. PUFFER says:

      If it’s a hog eat hog at the trough within the govt.than you can see why things are like they are out here.

    8. Russ, you should comment on how stoned driving is way different from driving intoxicated.
      Intoxicated drivers tend to think they are fine and can drive and attempt to do so. This causes them to swerve and do really stupid stuff.
      Stoned drivers tend to realize they are stoned and compensate for the impairment causing them to drive slow and paranoidly. They stop longer at stop signs and drive considerably slower.

      [Russ responds: True enough, but the “driving and toking” area is one where, had I taken it there, Sabet would have had a ton of stats to refute me. Folks, there is an impairment with smoking pot. It’s not as bad as alcohol and you are better aware of it and do tend to compensate, but in a “oh shit!” driving situation, awareness and compensation won’t help. So I didn’t go there… why throw him a life preserver?]

    9. John says:

      Hey Russ,
      Just want to say great job. Intelligent, confident, and personable. Amen Brother.

    10. Perry says:

      Well done. I agree with the previous posts though that marijuana is not addictive. If marijuana is in fact addictive, then everyone who uses it will become addicts. And that isn’t the case. No one has died from overdosing on marijuana. People have died from using marinol though. People have even died from drinking too much water.

      I rarely here anyone mention Irv Rosenfeld’s name in debates or in any arguments in favor of marijuana. The fact that he sued the feds and won, and has been receiving marijuana for decades from them is extremely important.

      Sabet acknowledges, brushes aside, and then tries to mislead about important points such as stating that marijuana was “used 5,000 years ago,” as opposed to marijuana has been used for over 5,000 years. Or “I understand that kids can get marijuana now despite the law,” making the point that prohibition does not, and will not work.

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