A Joint Meeting (We Hope the Pun Was Intended)

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Not sure what the elephant is snorting

Not sure what the elephant is snorting

Columbia University College Republicans (CUCR) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) came together (to the same room number) Wednesday evening for a heated discussion of U.S. drug policy. We sent our cannabis correspondent to sniff around.

There isn’t a much better way to start a meeting than brownies, even if they aren’t special. (From CUCR’s email about the meeting: “We promise there won’t be any drugs in the brownies. Unless you consider chocolate, eggs, flour, and/or love drugs.  In which case there will be drugs in the brownies.) No, I can tell you, there were no drugs in the brownies.

After the drugless brownie frenzy died down, CUCR and SSDP members took their seats. The conversation got rolling when mediator Jamie Boothe, CC ’15, called on an SSDP member. Preemptively on the defensive, the SSDP member made a general case for decriminalization, citing reasons like the inevitability of drug use and the benefits of regulating the market.

Then the conversation took a confused turn. A Republican asked, “Heroin and cocaine are illegal, yes?”

After this minor issue was set straight, the next several speakers established that the crowd was largely in support of decriminalizing at least some types of drugs, while a small but vocal minority opposed decriminalization altogether.

A few speakers used Prohibition as an example of the ineffectiveness of banning substances. One Republican went so far as to assert that our current drug policy is unconstitutional because, unlike Prohibition, it is not supported by constitutional amendment.

Other speakers brought up a myriad of good points: decriminalization would allow the government to tax drugs for revenue, people would be more likely to seek help for addiction, and we could impose more regulations and oversight on the industry. If all of those points came from CUCR, no wonder their party is having such an identity crisis.

Shit started to hit the fan when CUCR member Kate Christensen proclaimed her total opposition to decriminalization, drug use of any kind, and all other forms of moral debauchery. “I don’t want to live in a world where heroin is legal,” she said, “just as I don’t want to live in a world where prostitution is legal.”

This elicited a directed question from the SSDP member who started the discussion. After making it clear that he didn’t mean the question as an attack, he demanded, “What would a world in which heroin was legal look like to you?”

“Amsterdam,” someone else responded immediately.

After some verbal fumbling, Christensen responded to the question by describing how drugs prevent people from making rational decisions and rob them of their agency. To make her point more accessible, she asked, “How many people in here have ever been drunk? You have way less agency when you’re drunk.”

The question asker made the reasonable point that imposing laws that limit people’s rights takes away their agency.

Later, Christensen stated her belief that better drug education was the way to curb abuse–because we all know how effective those “Don’t be a dope, say nope” campaigns were. “If we could have more comprehensive drug and alcohol education in schools, that could help people make smarter decisions down the line,” she said.

This elicited an even more conservative response from a fellow Republican, who did not wait for Boothe to call on him: “It’s a personal freedom issue. I am an adult, so if I want to pollute my body with whatever, I should be able to pollute my body with whatever.” He discussed how decriminalization could eliminate some of the crime inherent in the illegal drug trade.

“But if it’s not about weed, it’ll be about something else,” someone said. (Incidentally, this was the same person who earlier inquired about the legality of heroine and cocaine.) “No, it won’t,” the original speaker snapped.

Throughout the discussion, Boothe seemed fixated on the idea that decriminalization would mean loads of hard drugs everywhere. One attempt to provoke the conversation (not that it needed it) began, “If we were to legalize substances such as crystal meth…” Later, he proposed an admittedly “hypothetical” situation in which any drug was legally available for adult consumption. Both ideas were disregarded by the discussion group.

Another CUCR member started on an impassioned rant with plenty of verbal affectation. “It’s really a question of what type of world you want to live in,” he said. “That’s really it. That’s the fundamental question.” In his belief, people who do drugs should get “locked up” because “that’s not the worst thing ever.” He even has some personal experience on the matter: “I know people who have gone to prison.”

On the question of what’s right for those who use drugs and their families, one speaker asked whether it’s worse for a father to be locked in prison while his kids grow up, or to be home and “stoned once a week.”

Boothe’s response to this whole area of the discussion: “Just say no, then.”

Another speaker brought up the interesting point that our current drug policy prevents studies researching the effects of illicit drugs. While this point actually received some snaps, others seemed to feel uncomfortable with it.

One speaker chipped in about how he doesn’t know how acid affects people who use it and the people around them. Unimpressed by his wishy-washyness, someone snapped, “Perhaps you should try it and report back.”

Plenty of questions were raised at the meeting, and plenty of personal opinions were expressed. Yet I left feeling like nothing had been accomplished between CUCR and SSDP because members of both groups were just preaching to their choir. So I think we all need to ask ourselves the fundamental question of what type of world we want to live in–and grab a brownie, drugless or otherwise. Because while lots of people got fired up here at the Joint Meeting, no one succeeded in reaching any answers.

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  1. Blunts in Butler  

    Sounds like CUCR needs to chill and smoke a bowl..

  2. heroin  


    heroine is a female hero

  3. CC14

    How was there literally zero mention of the fact that drug laws disproportionately affect men of color? Crack cocaine use gets up to 10 times the jail time as cocaine (which, surprise, is mostly used by rich white guys), and communities of color are stopped and frisked and policed way more than white communities (who have higher rates of drug use but a fraction of the arrests and convictions). Not mentioning the fact that the "War on Drugs" is really a war on black and brown men is a serious, serious omission on the part of SSDP.

  4. Ben  

    ^ Here we go again. #Notoriginal #Pretentiouscollegekid

  5. This...  

    ...is really hard to masturbate to.

  6. Anonymous  

    Though in general this article is very a biased view of the event that took place Wednesday night, what's worse is that the writer also took my quote out of context (AND misquoted me).

    Here is the quote in question:

    Another CUCR member started on an impassioned rant with plenty of verbal affectation. “It’s really a question of what type of world you want to live in,” he said. “That’s really it. That’s the fundamental question.” In his belief, people who do drugs should get ”locked up” because “that’s not the worst thing ever.” He even has some personal experience on the matter: “I know people who have gone to prison.”

    What I said first of all, was "though we have a lot of criminals in our prisons, while a problem, is not the worst thing ever." Getting locked up is an extremely painful experience.

    Even more egregious is the writers sarcastic and out of context quip: "He even has some personal experience on the matter: 'I know people who have gone to prison.'" First of all what I said was: "I know people who have gone to prison, many of them are good men, they are flawed men, just like us, and they are struggling. They shouldn't be demonized for this and our society does have a problem with stigmatization, but many of these men, should in fact, be in prison."

    The quote was not a "but I have a lot of friends that go to prison..." type line. First off, as a GS student, and an older student, my life has offered me such experiences and I don't take this kind of mockery to be very funny; not when many of my former co-workers and friends are in prison, and/or ex-cons. Also, my cousin was found in a room at 28 years old, 65 pounds and colorless, having died from a drug overdose. So, I especially don't take kindly to the condescending attitude and misleading context of the post in reference to the serious debate that was had the other night.

  7. christina  

    I dont see why saying their party has an identity crisis is bad... sounds like we have pretty reasonable GOPers on campus who wanna legalize mary jane

  8. Just a Weird Thought

    There was nothing wrong with the claim that "It’s a personal freedom issue. I am an adult, so if I want to pollute my body with whatever, I should be able to pollute my body with whatever.”What do you liberals want us to do, claim that drug use is good? No, drug use is not good. It is very bad. That does not mean that it should be bad. People have the right to do bad things to themselves, and I can be as disgusted with them as I want and choose to believe that the bad things that they do are not good. Why do liberals want me to approve of their idiocy? I do not approve. I will never approve. I will not take away your right to be an idiot and destroy your own life, however. That is your choice as a moral agent.

  9. Toby

    I am a board member of CUCR and I was at the meeting. It is clear that whoever wrote this was not interested in presenting CUCR in anything but a negative light. The writer misrepresented the meeting so much that I barely recognized my own "quote." I really don't know if the writer was just lazy, does not know how to take notes, or was maliciously misrepresenting CUCR.

    I spoke at least 7 times during the meeting. I made points about personal freedom and how the Republican Party is inconsistent in its stance on marijuana regulation because we are vocal against the idea of a "nanny state" and typically make a lot of pro consumer-sovereignty arguments except in the case of drugs. I also made points about conviction stigma and how that affects society and the economy negatively. I also made points about the level of violence that the prohibition of narcotics has wrought on the social and economic fabric of the United States and supplier countries. I quoted Milton Friedman and his stance that if all illegal narcotics were legalized and regulated then there would be 10,000 fewer homicides each year (this was in the 80s when there were far more homicides than there are now). I spoke about the 100,000 people who have been killed as a result of the drug war and drug-related violence in Mexico during the Calderon administration between 2006-2012. I also spoke about how the war on drugs actually strengthens the drug cartels by raising prices and discouraging competition. I spoke about the high rate of incarceration in this country. Additionally, I made the point that prohibition of these substances actually makes them more dangerous for consumers because they are not being made in advanced laboratories by people who know what they are doing and are subject to government regulation/forces of the capitalistic market. I spoke about Carl Hart's research that says the media and the government have purposefully exaggerated how addictive drugs are in order to discourage its use. I also spoke about how relatively few people die due to narcotics use. I said that 18,000 Americans die of illicit substance overdoses (not including abuse of prescription medicine). Yet, for some reason we think that those drugs are more dangerous than tobacco which kills 400,000 people per year, alcohol which kills 80,000 people per year, and obesity which kills 500,000 people per year.

    So, being that virtually none of this was mentioned in the BWOG article despite the fact that I said all of these things gives credence to the idea that there is a huge problem with whoever on the Bwog staff wrote it. Kate Christensen was completely misquoted and mischaracterized. The idea that she was verbally fumbling and not open to decriminalization is absurd. She specifically said that she was NOT against decriminalization. I was also misquoted. The individual who spoke about having friends who had served in prison was misquoted as well.

    When I made the point about the reduction in violence post-legalization, the other CUCR member responded that violence will remain high because criminals will continue to engage in violent activities in other ways. I did not respond by simply saying "No, it won't." I said " After the repeal of prohibition in 1933, there was an immediate and extreme drop in violence."

    Additionally, the fact that this "reporter" did not make herself known to us or even make an attempt to get our names is indicative of the fact that he or she did not do a quality job. And yes....of course the pun was intended.

  10. Anna  

    I went to this meeting because I was interested in seeing how the Republicans on the campus were against legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and what their reasons were for being this way. I was surprised to find that most Republicans at that meeting held very liberal views on the subject. I think there is hope yet for the Republican Party, at least on this campus

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