An eager and interested crowd of students, faculty and alumni piled in to the Gentile Gallery on Sunday evening to hear and participate in the Veritas Society’s Dumb Ox Debate on marijuana.
The event argued for and against the notion “This house believes that recreational marijuana should be legal in all 50 states.” Around 150 people attended the event, and many lined the walls since the room had been set up for only 100 attendees.
On the affirming side of the debate was Matthew Breuninger, who holds a doctorate in psychology. Alongside him was senior political science major Dylan Sherman.
On the opposing side, Kyle McKenna, who holds a doctorate in microbiology and immunology, argued against the house along with Ava Montes, a sophomore English major.
Breuninger began the opening statements, saying that the debate was not about the morality of marijuana but about whether or not the government should be allowed to regulate it. He argued that the federal government should not and that the states should be allowed to regulate it as they see fit. The government can only stop the legalization of something if it is an immediate, grave or serious threat, he explained. “If we have to regulate marijuana then we have to regulate alcohol, and the government shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” said Breuninger.
McKenna showed no hesitation when he stood to state that marijuana had the potential to be an immediate, grave and serious threat. He said, “The biological consequences of marijuana are catastrophic … our physicians stand against the legalization of recreational marijuana.” McKenna also pointed out that marijuana attacks the formation of a person’s brain and creates addicts that become a drain to society.
Sherman argued for the house, stating that marijuana was not an immediate threat when used in moderation and therefore it should be made legal.
Montes countered, saying, “Marijuana is an industry that attacks the poor and marginalized in our society.” She said that the debate was about whether or not we should let people in our society continue to harm themselves. She continued to say that cold, hard facts show that marijuana has done nothing but harm, for arrest and crimes have increased since its legalization.
When the floor was opened for audience members to weigh in, a 2002 Franciscan graduate who works in drug and alcohol counseling spoke against the house, saying from firsthand experience that recreational marijuana does no good.
An argument that many people made in favor of legalizing marijuana was that the government is here to promote society, not control lives.
James Reichert, a Franciscan student, spoke about the bad effects of marijuana in his home state of Colorado. He said that the homeless population was overwhelming and the housing market was not catching up. If marijuana became legalized, other states would become like Colorado, he said.
Sherman and Montes ended the debate with closing statements, solidifying their arguments from before.
In the end, the majority voted against the house, and the notion “This house believes that recreational marijuana should be legal in all 50 states” was defeated.
The Veritas Society meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge to discuss hot topics in light of philosophy and Church teaching. They also plan to host two more Dumb Ox Debates this semester, the next tentatively being on the topic of women on the frontlines.