By Tommy McDonald, Drug Policy Alliance
Let's get ready to rumble!!
Ok, how about let's get ready to debate civilly!!
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance - who Rolling Stone recently dubbed, "The Real Drug Czar" - debated former DEA head and U.S. Congressman Asa Hutchinson on marijuana legalization. Nadelmann and Hutchinson have previously gone head-to-head on a national stage, such as this segment on CNN's Crossfire.
Moderated by The Atlantic's James Bennet, the debate features some thought-provoking moments and even some agreement on some points. However, Hutchinson falsely believes that only large-scale drug dealers go to jail for drug charges - a common prohibitionist trope.
"You have to be a serious drug offender to go to jail," Hutchinson asserted. "Enforcement doesn't always lead to incarceration - and it shouldn't," he later said.
The 750,000 people a year who are arrested for small-time marijuana offenses would like to have a word with Hutchison, I'm sure.
"I'm in this because I think arresting 750,000 people a year for marijuana use is a terrible thing to do," Nadelmann said.
And Ethan introduces Bennett and Hutchinson to the concept of "wake and bake."
Among Ethan's standout quotes:
On increased marijuana use rates "Where marijuana use is going to go up is older people saying, damn it helps with my arthritis."
On guidance from the Obama Administration on how to deal with legalization in Colorado and Washington: "These controversial, hot-button issues are not where the White House typically leads."
The ninth-annual Aspen Ideas Festival, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, has generated quite the buzz over the weekend. More than 300 insightful thinkers and leaders from around the country and beyond will gather in Aspen, CO to discuss their work, the issues that inspire them, and their ideas. The week's programming will cover a variety of important issues, including the economy, the Middle East, energy, space, mobility, design - and marijuana legalization, among other topics. The public dialogue will engage, over seven days, a festival audience of more than 4,000 attendees between the campus at the Aspen Meadows and the town of Aspen, as well as those following the festival online throughout the world.
For a list of currently confirmed speakers, program tracks, and passholder information, please visit www.aspenideas.org. Full-session video and audio clips will be featured on www.aspenideas.org, on the Aspen Institute's YouTube channel, iTunesU, and on the Aspen Institute's video channel and TheAtlantic.com's video channel. Regular updates from the Festival in the run-up, during the event, and after can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Follow the Ideas Festival on Twitter at @aspenideas with the hashtag #AspenIdeas. Additionally the Festival discussions can be followed all year on the Aspen Ideas Festival blog.