A High-Minded Debate Over Legalizing Pot

| Tue Sep. 28, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

At precisely 4:20 PM last Saturday, proponents and foes of legalizing marijuana in California were scheduled to hold a debate at the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo inside the Cow Palace arena just outside San Francisco. Things didn't go as planned. "The whole debate thing was just a disaster," organizer Susan Soares* later told me. For one thing, the debate's starting time posed a logistical problem. While 20 past 4 is stoner culture's designated hour to light up, the debate room was not within the official pot smoking area where anyone with a medical marijuana card—which meant just about everybody in attendance—could freely sample marijuana-infused fruit smoothies, lollipops, and beef jerky, in addition to joints proffered by busty cigarette girls in tight-fitting nurses outfits.

But no matter: While everyone was still partaking, Dennis Peron, a fervent medical marijuana activist who opposes legalization on arcane legal grounds, held the stage hostage for several minutes in an effort to be added to the speakers list. The actual debate didn't start until 4:48, at which point the crowd of red-eyed pot growers, suppliers, and smokers was standing-room only.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.