Marijuana Sparks Debate

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Students argued the issue of marijuana legalization during the Chico Great Debate in the Chico City Council Chambers on Thursday.

A series of speeches, debates and panels presented the potential pros and cons of marijuana legalization in California. Discussions lasted all day between 74 Chico State students and culminated in a final debate event that included six community members.

The most common arguments in favor of legalization included the expected $1.4 billion in tax revenue and non-lethal, medicinal use for pain, depression and other ailments.

The increase in tax revenue through marijuana sales would boost the economy and decrease law enforcement costs, said senior DeAnna Christensen, a communications major.

Researching this subject solidified her opinion that marijuana should be legal, Christensen said. It would be good for the economy and decrease the number of people in jail.

However, drug dealers and underage people would still grow and buy marijuana illegally to avoid taxation, said sophomore Tori Trinkkeller, a communications major. In addition, legalization would increase use and health problems associated with smoking the plant.

"It's not worth it to sacrifice our health to save our economy," she said.
Trinkkeller favors keeping marijuana illegal because the cost to support the effects of legalization may be more than the income it brings, she said.

Trinkkeller was one of several students who participated in the Great Debate as part of a class assignment. Some students were required to participate, while others were there for extra credit.

The Great Debate was the first of what is expected to be a bi-annual event between students and the city, said Thia Wolf, director of the First-Year Experience Program.

The idea originated from Assistant City Manager John Rucker, Wolf said. He partnered with Wolf and other Chico State faculty to create a venue for civil discussion on important issues because city council meetings can't provide that opportunity.

"We feel strongly that civility needs to be restored in the public space when we're talking about hot-button topics," Rucker said.

Students from the First-Year Experience Program and communications courses spent the semester researching important issues regarding marijuana legalization, Wolf said. Community members were interviewed and chosen to take part in the final evening debate.

Retired chemist Jerry Clark lives in Magalia and attended the debate hoping to have an opportunity to discuss resolutions to the problems, he said. As a grandfather and part of the community, he thinks legalization is a bad idea.

"When I go with my children to the farmers' market in the future, I don't want to see 20 stalls of cannabis for one stall of tomatoes," Clark said.

He is particularly concerned that legislatures are more interested in taxing for a revenue stream as opposed to taxing for the benefit of the community, Clark said. Growers should also be held more accountable.
"I'm familiar with all of these arguments," he said. "I'm interested in getting on to the solutions."



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Source: The Orion
Author: Sarah Brown
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