Deliberation Reflection: Deliberate for State: The Topic of Marijuana

When deciding which deliberation to attend, there were many possible options. Some topics occurred several times and there seemed to be a large number of conversations that would be focused on alcohol and rape culture at Penn State and Immigration. While I think these are two very important topics, so much so that my group hosted a deliberation on sexual health, I wanted to attend a deliberation that was not like others. The topic of marijuana legalization has been very controversial in the last couple of years in terms of law and politics. I was curious to see how students would talk about the matter and what approach they thought was best to tackle this issue.

While I think the three approaches were outlined very clearly by the presenters, I feel a one sided opinion dominated the entire deliberation. Rather than a question of whether or not marijuana should be legalized, what that might look like, and how that would affect civic life, the conversation was more focused on why students felt it be legalized and personal advocacy for it. When presenting the approaches, the students addressed main concerns of the legalization of marijuana, indicating why it has been illegal and the government stance on its classification of the drug. The group that provided the background information was informed on the government’s view of it, making it very clear to the audience and helped them to understand terminology and the view of marijuana in terms of policy to current date. The second approach looked at the issue in comparison of the federal and state levels and encouraged the audience to offer their opinion on how they think its legalization should be addressed. The final group offered an approach that addressed how it could be legalized and if that legalization offered major consequences to society. Additionally, they posed the question as to whether or not the audience thought its legalization would occur with time. Regardless of opinion to whether or not it should be legalized, almost everyone in the room agreed that it will most likely be legal in coming years.

It was really interesting to hear so many personal perspectives on the situation and the view in which people had on marijuana personally and in the legal sense. Because the room was made up of only students, I felt as though everyone was comfortable talking. However, the conversation may have benefitted from someone who has done research on the drugs, a physician who deals with medical marijuana use questions, or a policy maker that is involved in legal action concerning drugs. Often times in the conversation, students were making claims that they said could be supported by research or assumptions about medical professionals, but many of these statements were not always rooted in fact, but drawed upon common stereotypes.

While I thought the presenters addressed the topic well, I feel as though the deliberation lacked a holistic view of the topic. Once several prominent voices made their opinion known on the matter, the conversation no longer addressed a larger issue but focused more on a public opinion of why people thought current regulations on marijuana didn’t make sense, and these people used personal stories as their evidence. Some claims made insisted that it is not addictive, it should be used for recreational and medicinal use, and that it should be treated similarly as alcohol in terms of regulation. While people did offer very informative points, no part of the conversation was aimed at evaluating why it is not legal in many places currently. When helping prepare for my own deliberation, I kept my experience at this deliberation and the strengths and weaknesses of it in my mind to help conduct the best deliberation with my group.

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