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420 at CPAC: Conservatives debate marijuana

(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

As fate would have it, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) came to DC on the very day the district legalized marijuana—and celebrated with a 4:20pm debate over drug legalization and a Michelle Malkin film featuring the supposed perils of legalization in Colorado.

The debate pitted the pro-legalization former Libertarian Party presidential candidate and New Mexico governor Gary Johnson against anti-legalization Ann Marie Buerkle, a commissioner for the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Townhall’s Mary Katherine Ham, who has been known to spar over marijuana in her day, moderated the event.

Buerkle’s arguments centered around public safety and health concerns over marijuana–“Do we want to stupefy our youth?” she asked.

At one point, she declared that “You have a one in five higher chance of a heart attack within the first hour after you smoke marijuana.” Unable to contain the crowd’s merriment at Johnson’s theatrical reaction, she snapped, “The governor has had great fun with his humor, but it isn’t funny…it’s not funny.”

“It seems as though we all joke about the fact that ‘I did it,’” Johnson countered. “And the fact is that half of everybody you associate with—friends, family, coworkers—have done marijuana at one point or another…Do you want to lock up your parents? Do you want to lock up your kids? Do you want to lock up your coworkers and your friends?”

Buerkle dismissed Johnson’s comments about incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenses, insisting that taxpayers pay very little to lock up drug users. “In a four trillion dollar budget, it’s a very small amount of money,” she said. “Your chances of going to prison for smoking a joint is like, 1 in 12,000.”

“Anybody do the math on 1 in 12,000?” Johnson shot back. “We’re arresting 1.8 million people a year.”

One of Johnson’s biggest applause lines came when he answered Buerkle’s  arguments about the negative health effects of pot by applying her reasoning to trans fats and gluten. “I don’t eat any trans fats, it’s not a good idea. Stop eating doughnuts. I have celiac disease, stop eating wheat, it is poison. It is! But should it be against the law?”

Johnson also referenced the growing popularity of marijuana legalization, particularly among the young. “What is the future of politics if not the young?” he asked. “I just think this is going to happen…I genuinely believe this does make the world a better place.”

Meanwhile, as Johnson and Buerkle debated, Michelle Malkin screened “Rocky Mountain Heist,” a film purporting to show how liberals seized control of Colorado. The movie, which addressed a broad range of policy issues, featured dramatically-edited scenes about how the state’s pot legalization has resulted in the “young and aimless” hanging out on “stoner hill” where they do sinister things like “smoke,” “chill,” and “mingle.”

Only two people in the twenty-something range were to be found at the sparsely-attended event—one of whom snuck out early.

The lone young person left at the end, Stephanie (she preferred to not disclose her full name), enjoyed the film, but thought marijuana laws should be left up to the states.

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