Smokin' Debate on Pot Issue

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Colorado -- State Attorney General John Suthers called a ballot measure seeking to legalize marijuana possession in Colorado "a little bit sloppy and a little bit reckless" during a debate Tuesday night - a charge vehemently denied by the man spearheading the campaign, Mason Tvert. Tvert, in turn, had a word for those who oppose Amendment 44 - Orwellian.
The debate at the Newman Center at the University of Denver was about marijuana. But for the two men on the stage, it was also alternately about personal freedom, drug usage among teens and how pot stacks up against such legal items as alcohol and tobacco.

Supporters of the amendment, which would allow adults in Colorado to possess less than an ounce of marijuana, have been hammering home the point that alcohol is more harmful than marijuana since the measure qualified for the ballot in August.

Suthers wasn't buying it then or now.

"Our American society is plagued by moral relativism - the notion that . . . there are things that are worse out there," Suthers said. "This is probably one of the worst instances - this campaign, this message - of moral relativism I've heard."

Tvert said Suthers simply doesn't want people to have marijuana for any reason, noting the attorney general also opposed pot being administered for medical reasons.

"They don't care if you're sick or dying. They don't care if you're young. They don't care if you're old," Tvert said. "They just want to make sure that you cannot use marijuana under any circumstances."

In the debate moderated by Adam Schrager, of 9News, the two opponents seldom waited for questions to present their cases. Tvert and Suthers often addressed each other, questioning the other's statistics and charges about marijuana usage and its effect on people.

Tvert even questioned the state's heart in prosecuting marijuana possession charges and said people are losing an inordinate number of personal freedoms because of the misdemeanor conviction.

"Maybe they don't lose all of their freedom, but they certainly lose enough of it that it doesn't warrant enough of a state interest in a $100 citation," Tvert said.

"Mr. Suthers has clearly acknowledged this is ridiculous. One hundred dollars is nothing. If it's only worth $100, there's really no reason why we should continue ruining people's lives over it."

Suthers pointed to an overall decrease in drug usage in the past three decades and claimed usage was down among children, with two-thirds citing its illegality as a reason not to try it. He said now isn't the time to change strategies.

"I would ask the voters of Colorado not to wave the white flag," Suthers said. "Let's not send the wrong message to our children. The only acceptable alternative to intoxication is sobriety."

Tvert accused Suthers of being unrealistic.

"They want to live in the idealistic world; we want to live in the realistic world," he said.

The debate was sponsored by the University of Denver and 9News.

Note: Attorney general, legalization backer go one on one at DU.

Complete Article: http://tinyurl.com/kraly

Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Author: David Montero, Rocky Mountain News
Published: September 27, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Denver Publishing Co.
 

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