Texas Tech University

Civil Counterpoints to Tackle Marijuana Perspectives

George Watson

March 14, 2019

Civil Counterpoints

Experts from all sides debate the various topics being experienced throughout society today in regards to pot.

Legalization. Medical use. Health benefits and risks. For decades, these subjects and more have been vigorously debated among experts when it comes to marijuana.

But as times have changed both in the United States and around the world, so have attitudes toward pot. By early 2019, 10 states had legalized recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 others have allowed it for medical use only. According to a February CNBC report, in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize weed, sales of regulated pot have topped $6 billion since legal sales began and the industry grew by almost 8 percent in 2018 alone, when regulated marijuana sales were nearly $1.55 billion.

By contrast, in California, higher costs and continued competition from the illicit drug market have slowed regulated pot sales since they began in January 2018, coming in at $101 million below projected tax revenue for the first six months of the year. The state expects marijuana excise taxes to generate $355 million in 2018-19 and another $514 million in 2019-2020.

The move to legalize marijuana and its increasing popularity for medical purposes contrasts sharply with attitudes from much of the last century, where local law enforcement and state and federal governments led high-profile anti-drug campaigns. Today, even a staunch conservative like former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner is behind a cannabis startup from Canada that has more than 40 dispensaries across the United States.

But there are still those who are fervently against any form of marijuana legalization, and the issue remains a divisive topic across the U.S. These issues and more surrounding marijuana legalization will be part of the latest Civil Counterpoints discussion.

Civil Counterpoints

"Perspectives on Pot: Marijuana in U.S. Society," the seventh installment of the Civil Counterpoints series, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday (March 19) in the Red Raider Ballroom of the Texas Tech Student Union Building. Audience interaction is encouraged, and a reception with the expert guests will follow.

According to Sean Cunningham, chairman of the Department of History in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of the faculty advisory council to Civil Counterpoints, marijuana – specifically the debate surrounding its legalization – is a topic of direct relevance to university students and administrators alike.

"One of the central organizing principles for this series is the conviction that we, as a community, desperately need to have open, honest conversations about the issues that divide us, no matter how controversial or difficult," Cunningham said. "Whether we like it or not, the debates surrounding marijuana are directly relevant to our campus community, our city, our state and our nation. It may be a touchy subject, but unless we talk about it, the debate goes nowhere."

Experts for this installment of Civil Counterpoints include:

  • Taylor West, senior communications director, Cohn Marketing of Denver, Colorado. West has extensive experience in both the cannabis industry and state and federal government, having worked for the National Cannabis Industry Association, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, as well as on the 2008 presidential campaign for Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd. She focuses on marketing and branding for cannabis-related businesses and contributes her strategic expertise to other Cohn Marketing clients.
  • Zachery Sneed, director of the Master of Science in the Addiction Counseling Program at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The Addiction Counseling Program provides services for those with substance disorders, behavioral addictions and health problems through treatment and support that helps lead to recovery from addiction or the ability to modify behavioral problems. Sneed also is an assistant professor of clinical counseling and mental health, a certified rehabilitation counselor and licensed chemical dependency counselor.
  • Roy Bassett, chief of police, Frenship Independent School District. A 32-year law enforcement veteran with the Lubbock Police Department, Bassett was named the Frenship ISD Chief of Police in December after serving as Deputy Chief with LPD. He also served for 10 years as a detective in juvenile crimes as well as a sergeant in patrol and administration and in the department's public information office. He graduated from the Lubbock Police Academy in 1987 after earning his bachelor's degree from Texas Tech, then earned his Master Peace Officer certificate in 2000.
  • Jake Syma, associate librarian and member of the Hub City National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). This regional chapter of NORML supports the repeal of marijuana prohibition at the local, state and federal levels and works to educate the community about marijuana and hemp and their use both medically and industrially. The organization also promotes responsible use of marijuana by adults.

This installment of Civil Counterpoints will be moderated by Erik Bucy, the Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor of Strategic Communication in the College of Media & Communication. Bucy also is a sponsor of Civil Counterpoints.

Civil Counterpoints is a collaboration among faculty members from the College of Media & Communication, the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources and the Honors College to encourage civility and open-mindedness in discussions of controversial topics. Support is provided by Texas Tech's Office of the President, the Department of History and the Division of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, and segments of the discussion will air on KTTZ-TV in the future.

The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in the event also can follow along on Twitter and contribute to the discussion using the hashtag #ttubecivil.

For more information on Civil Counterpoints, including dates and topics for future discussions, go to its website.