Mainstream acceptance of smoking marijuana has never been higher, and that was before Colorado and Washington voters approved measures last November that legalized personal consumption of weed in their respective states. More than a third of the country allows for the use of medical marijuana, but the odds of that happening in the Sunshine State seem further away than ever.
Those were the facts on the ground as two skilled advocates for and against legalizing pot engaged in a spirited debate — moderated with skill by WFLA News Channel 8 anchor Keith Cate and USF Ph.D. student Sarah-Beth Hopton — on the University of Tampa campus this past Monday night in front of an estimated 500 people, mostly students.
Aaron Houston is the executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He said some estimates show that legalization could bring in up to $40 billion in tax revenues and savings for the country. He said 52 percent of federal prisoners are in for drug crimes, and the War on Drugs is a failure.
Kevin Sabet is against legalizing marijuana. From 2009-2011 he served in the Obama administration as senior advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He said even though the potential for enhanced tax revenues is a powerful argument, there would be a heavier debt in "social costs," comparing pot to alcohol and tobacco. He also disputed Houston's figure of those imprisoned, "we are not imprisoning people with marijuana only." He said people imprisoned for using marijuana make up less than 1 percent.