Dickinson College

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director September 27, 2008


    My recent debate with Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed at Dickinson College on September 4 in now online for viewing. Public debates at places such as colleges and universities are crucial in educating the public about alternatives to cannabis prohibition. Interested individuals and parties that would like to establish a NORML chapter or sponsor a debate between NORML and a proponent of cannabis prohibition are encouraged to contact NORML.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director September 12, 2008

    Ever get the feeling right after a speech, presentation or debate that you didn’t include everything you wanted to?

    After a few hundred public debates on behalf of NORML since 1991 in support of alternatives to cannabis prohibition, that feeling apparently never subsides…and it didn’t after a debate last week at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed.

    Somewhere in the course of the formal questions, answers and rebuttals (and of course, rebuttals of rebuttals!), Mr. Freed drew upon the standard, oft-trotted, ONDCP-fed course of reasoning that 1) medical cannabis use is not accepted by health trade lobby associations like the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society and MS Society of the US (Ironically, the British MS Society supports patient access to medicinal cannabis products), and 2) there are few credible studies that look at cannabis, therefore this is proof-positive that cannabis is not a valuable, non-toxic and remarkably safe therapeutic to use under a physician’s care.

    In my brief rebuttal I made two points, 1) there are hundreds of health and medical associations that support patient access to cannabis (and that, ironically the AMA was the one organization in the 1930s that actually stood up against the federal government’s efforts to create cannabis prohibition because of the plant’s clear therapeutic qualities), and 2) that cannabis (and cannabinoids) has been studied to the extreme, with over 14,000 studies on record.

    In retrospect, however, I was wrong.

    There are not 14,000 cannabinoid-related studies on record. Currently, there are over 17,000 according to a newly released scientific paper I failed to read before the debate!


    Note to self: Update your debate rhetoric and media talking points!

    However, it is not like this one point changed the outcome of what was a well-attended, civil and informative debate.

    Over the years I’ve come to learn that when it comes to debating the issue of ‘legalizing’ cannabis on a college or university campus, proponents of Prohibition and the status quo lost the debate long before they’ve hit the stage. Frankly, I think a scarecrow mounted at a podium representing reformers would win the debate anyways as college students are the most anti-prohibitionistic and pro-cannabis law reform segment of the population in America (and Canada, Europe, Australia, etc…).

    NORML and I thank the students and faculty of Dickinson College for hosting a debate on the future of cannabis prohibition, and for District Attorney David Freed for his willingness to publicly discuss and debate the topic of cannabis law reform.