Yesterday, December 20, 2017, Turning Point USA held a marijuana legalization debateduring its Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. The debate was between the Libertarian-minded Republican Austin Petersen and anti-marijuana activist Jeff Hunt. But it was Petersen who got the loudest ovations and was mobbed for selfies after the debate.
The debate room was standing-room-only and though there were some Jeff Hunt supporters in the crowd, it was clear the overwhelming majority were supportive of legalizing marijuana. Hunt’s main problem with legalization was the commercialization of the plant. Hunt described himself as a “capitalist, not a predatory capitalist.”
Petersen was able to deftly knock down each of Hunt’s opposition points. When confronted that marijuana is a gateway drug (which science has shown it is not), Petersen quickly said that if one considers marijuana a gateway drug, then one must consider cigarettes and alcohol as the same.
Let states decide and end the federal war on drugs – Petersen
The two came together when Hunt said that smoking marijuana over time will cause a loss of 8 points to one’s IQ, for which, Petersen quipped, “What is Aleppo?” The response got a resounding laugh and clapping from the crowd as they all knew the reference was to two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson who smoked a lot of marijuana over his lifetime and had a famous moment during his 2016 presidential campaign when he did not know the town of Aleppo in Syria when asked by an MSNBC commentator. Although it was not brought up during the debate, Petersen is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri as a Republican.
This week’s Turning Point USA event is mostly for conservative college students, though many are more Libertarian than some would have thought. Besides Petersen, the other popular speaker was Ben Shapiro on opening night. Though Shapiro is clearly a young conservative he also leans libertarian on many issues. Shapiro would not describe himself as a Libertarian; however, as he feels that mode of thinking would eventually lead to anarchism. Shapiro recently has gotten some notoriety for a Twitter feud he is having with Rosie O’Donnell.
The event has drawn well over 3,000 students from all 50 states in the country to WestPalm Beach. The Summit will conclude at noon tomorrow.