Economics Students And Professors Argue About Weed At Annual Debate

There were personal attacks, a professor singing about bong rips while playing the guitar, and graphs illustrating the price inelasticity of pot. The Penn State Economics Association’s Great Debate Tuesday night at Eisenhower Auditorium featured all those moments and more as two teams of three students and a professor hurled statistics, rhetorical appeals, and comedic gestures at each other in an effort to sway the audience for or against the legalization of marijuana.

Economics professor James Tierney led the team that argued for the total legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Tierney urged his audience to question why pot is illegal today. He also shot down the idea that marijuana led to a decrease in productivity, a key economic factor.

“From 1776 to 1937 weed was legal, we weren’t unproductive,” he said.

Professor Jadrian Wooten headed the opposition, a group of four individuals burdened with the task of advocating for the legalization of only medicinal weed. Wooten suggested “there are many knowns and many unknowns” that come with opening marijuana to American markets. A medicinal program will provide a smaller sample to test these new waters.

Individual students then gave three-minute presentations followed by rebuttals from the other side. Ezra Goldstein, debating for the medicinal program, took a page out of high school rhetoric books in a good ole fashion appeal to pathos. He shared a story of a sick girl that suffered over 20 seizures a day. After her doctor urged her parents to try cannabidiol treatment, the seizures significantly decreased. It also saved the family around $20.00 a day.

“They gave her the drug and the difference was night and day,” he told the audience.

But in a powerful rebuttal, Nicholas Morgart shared a story of his own, but this one much more personal than that of his opponent. Morgart explained that he suffered from a brain tumor, and his doctor suggested that the best way to treat it would be with pot. However, Morgart lives in Pennsylvania, a state where medicinal weed is illegal. He used this framework to suggest that marijuana should be available and legal for all.

Others took more traditional economic approaches to the contest. Sarah Martinez, debating for the pro-legalization side, showed a series of price elasticity graphs that suggested the demand for marijuana was not entirely affected by price changes. By her logic, this suggested weed should be injected into regulated American markets.

Morgart followed his strong rebuttal with another impressive speech, providing the audience with an engaging marijuana history lesson. The outlawing of weed at first attempted to only ban the flowery part of the bud, which carried the most THC, but effectively prohibited the whole plant. This shouldn’t be the case.

“The Declaration of Independence is drafted on hemp paper after all,” he exclaimed.

After the students rested their respective cases, economics professor and debate monitor Mark Mcleod, a passionate guitarist, shared a song that summarized the events. It was a comical conclusion to an evening of spirited debate.

After a text-in voting system, the pro-legalization team won handily, by a near 3-to-1 margin.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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