A one-sided weed debate

Assistant manager Dunn Ericson refills a jar of medical marijuana at the River Rock Medical Marijuana Center in Denver, Colorado, on May 16, 2013. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Assistant manager Dunn Ericson refills a jar of medical marijuana at the River Rock Medical Marijuana Center in Denver, Colorado, on May 16, 2013. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

In response to an increase of marijuana use on campus, Citrus College officials hosted a “Let’s Talk About Marijuana” workshop on May 22 in the Campus Center.

The event, which turned contentious at times, drew a turnout of more than 50 students.

Workshop presenters focused mostly on the negative effects of marijuana usage. Student participants voiced their opinions on the drug as well.

The debate began less than three minutes into the event, when a PowerPoint slide showed marijuana on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of Schedule I controlled substances.

The DEA defines a Schedule I drug as a substance that has “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Heroin, ecstasy and LSD are also considered Schedule I drugs.

“Do you agree with that?” 21-year-old mechanical engineering major Nick Kalcheuer challenged the presenters. “Methamphetamine is not even a Schedule I drug. Do you think it’s better?”

I don’t think any drugs are better,” replied college nurse Shauna Bigby. “You’re talking to a health care professional . . . I do agree that it is highly addictive, and that is the criteria for a Schedule I drug.”

Methamphetamine is listed as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

“You’re asking if [we] believe that marijuana is more or less harmful [than other drugs],” added Glendora Police Department Cpl. Chris Stabios.

“Really, what any of us necessarily believe isn’t relevant. The bottom line is [where] the DEA has decided to schedule marijuana, and if it’s going to change, it’s going to change at the hands of the federal government.”

From that point on, speakers highlighted the negatives of marijuana usage, including lasting psychoactive effects and decreased sexual activity.

At that point, students began to chime in again, asking about the medicinal uses of marijuana.

“There are therapeutic uses for marijuana,” Brown said in response to a question about marinol, an FDA-approved pill form of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana usually abbreviated as THC.

“Then why are you guys making it seem like it’s so bad?”asked 34-year-old business major Ricardo Murillo.

“Nobody [here] has said if someone is in medical need—legitimate medical need—that you can’t have it,” Stabios said. “I kind of have a hard time believing that a 19-year-old suffering from stress needs it, but hey, everyone’s their own individual.”

Dean of students Martha McDonald then touched on the consequences that could befall marijuana users if they’re caught smoking, under the influence, or in possession of marijuana on campus. Possible punishments range from anywhere from warnings to expulsion, per Citrus College board policy 5520.

Punishments are determined on a case-by-case basis, she said.

“A lot of times students will say ‘Well, I was in my car, that’s my own private property,’” McDonald said. “True, that’s your car, but you’re on Citrus College property. Therefore, you have to abide by the rules of the college.”

“We are an institution of higher education,” she continued. “We have to abide by federal law. If we do not abide by federal law, then our [ability to issue] financial aid is in question.”

Two speakers from Marijuana Anonymous spoke about their past marijuana usage and their struggles with sobriety afterwards. But by the time a mixed-message, profanity-laced speech from the first speaker was completed, more than half of the students had already cleared out.

“I loved the feeling of [getting high] more than anything. I still do,” said Alex R., who requested his last name not be used in accordance with MA policy. “[But] when I smoked, it was all about me and my high. No one else mattered.”

“I don’t know. F**k it; if it still worked for me, I would still smoke. It’s the best for me,”Alex said.

Artis McKinley, a 21-year-old major, said that Alex’s speech was one of the reasons he walked out.

“He didn’t seem like he was serious,” McKinley said. “It seemed like he was trying to be a comedian in some instances. Through[out] that, I was trying to listen to what he was saying instead of listening to how he was presenting it . . . because you always have to play the devil’s advocate, play the other side. And I couldn’t.”

Engineering major Nick Kalcheuer also expressed dissatisfaction with how the workshop was conducted.

“There was no other side to their argument,” Kalcheuer said. “They brought no other speakers to the seminar that dealt with the pros of even medical marijuana. It was purely an attack on marijuana itself.” McKinley, however, did say he took something away from the presentation.

“You’re supposed to be fast to listen and slow to speak, so it’s always good to keep an open ear . . . so I guess I did learn something,” he said with the look of someone who just solved a difficult problem. “I learned the school has certain views that it expects [students] to have when they’re on campus and we should uphold them”

“It’s only right that [we] as students should follow the rules.”