4A - Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
E-MAIL CHRISTINA AT CHSUHI@UMICH.EDU
bE itd tan4 0a4J
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
S'I420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
crsLA 20'Lt-> federal t^
M(o vem ent)Fo rwardfor LGB'I-"T
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
A wasteful crime
States should legalize recreational marijuana use
California voters have the chance to make history in
November. If passed, a recently created ballot initiative
in California would make the state the first to legalize
the recreational use of marijuana. The initiative would create a
legal market for marijuana that would provide revenue to a debt-
ridden state, develop a new sector for employment and allow law
enforcement to put a better focus on violent crimes. California
voters should pass the initiative and Michigan, along with the
rest of the nation, should follow suit and legalize recreational
The Tax, Regulate and Control Canna-
bis Act of 2010 - which is sponsored by
Oaksterdam University, a cannabis col-
lege in Oakland, California - would allow
those over 21 to possess up to one ounce
and grow a maximum of 25 square feet of
marijuana. The initiative received nearly
700,000 signatures, clearly surpassing the
433,971 it needed to be placed on the Cali-
fornia ballot in November.
Decriminalizing marijuana would lead
to immediate benefits for California. Cur-
rent marijuana laws lead to waste of money
and time pursuing, processing and impris-
oning recreational marijuana users. If the
initiative were to be passed, California
could save about $200 million according to
the National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws (NORML, for short) -
and law enforcement could concentrate on
apprehending violent crime offenders.
California could also increase its rev-
enue by legalizing recreational marijuana
use. Marijuana taxes that could be enacted
if the drug was legal would generate about
$1.4 billion each year, according to Cali-
fornia's tax regulator, the Board of Equal-
ization. The money could be reallocated
to services like health care, education or
And legal marijuana use would create
a lucrative industry that could generate
thousands of jobs. According to the Cali-
fornia BOE, a legal market for marijua-
na could become a $14-billion-per-year
industry. This is only amplified by the $12
to $18 billion per year that NORML esti-
mates industries related to recreational
marijuana would make. NORML also esti-
mates that a marijuana industry could cre-
ate between 60,000 and 110,000 new jobs
But California isn't the only state that
would benefit from legalizing recreation-
al marijuana - Michigan could also reap
the rewards. Michigan has a 14.1-percent
unemployment rate as of February, accord-
ing to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
and its average debt is high. The state
could certainly profit from increased rev-
enue and jobs created by a new industry.
And according to the State of Michigan
House Fiscal Agency, Michigan spent
$38,012,000 on punishment of marijuana
infractions in 2007, the most recent fig-
ures available. That excessive expenditure
could be eliminated. A profitable marijua-
na industry would help pull Michigan out
of its current economic slump.
If California passes the Tax, Regulate
and Control Cannabis Act of 2010, it would
create a successful model of legal marijua-
na use that provides fiscal and public safe-
ty benefits that could be followed by other
states including Michigan. California
should pass the ballot initiative legalizing
recreational marijuana use in November,
and Michigan should follow its example.
n Sunday, I sat down with
.3Michigan Student Assembly
President Chris Armstrong,
who was sworn
in as the assem-
bly's new leader
last night. My
wasn't to focus
on his successful ,
campaign or his
vision for MSA.
Rather, I wanted
to discuss topics TOMMASO
that have receivedP
little attention in PAVONE
the past several
weeks: his coming
out experience, the role that his sex-
ual identity has played in his life and
his perspective on the significance of
becoming the first openly gay MSA
President. Because despite a lack of
coverage regarding Armstrong's sexu-
ality, it's a really big deal.
What I foresaw as a formal inter-
view with Armstrong actually turned
into a fantastic chat about his life. We
climbed to the 3rd floor of the Michi-
gan Union and, quite appropriately,
conducted the interview just a few
feet away from the Spectrum Center.
My first impression of Armstrong was
of a distinctly energetic and positive
individual. Despite a pouring rain
outside creating a somewhat somber
atmosphere, Armstrong was smiling,
laughing and passionately opening
up about some of the most personal
aspects of his life.
He described the emotional expe-
rience of coming out to his parents
at the young age of fifteen and the
importance of their being support-
ive regarding his sexuality. He told
me about his first relationship early
in high school, which occurred years
before Armstrong came out to his
friends. And he shared that it wasn't
until he came to the University
that he fully embraced his sexual-
ity. "Being openly gay, for me, is one
of the most salient identities that I
have," he said. "I am inherently tied
to all other gay men on this campus,
even if I've not met them."
Armstrong's solidarity stems
from the support that the Univer-
sity's LGBT community offered him
in his personal development. "If it
weren't for all of them," Armstrong
explained, "I would have never been
in the position that I was." He says
a major motive to run for president
was to show younger members of the
LGBT commission that a gay man
could become president of MSA. Upon
accomplishing this goal and learning
that he had been elected MSA presi-
dent, Armstrong says he felt "com-
pletely overwhelmed." It took some
time for the significance of his victory
to sink in. "I don't think at that time I
reallythought... I'm gay and I won," he
explained. "I don't think I really real-
ized it until the next day."
Clearly, Armstrong understands,
that the significance of his election
cannot be overstated. Symbolically,
his landslide victory is a testament
to the University's ability to promote
diversity and support social justice.
At a more practical level, Armstrong's
sexuality and involvement in the
LGBT Commission is sure to shape
the way he approaches his role as MSA
president. "You need to understand
and be intimately involved in all these
different communities so that you can
better make decisions on behalf of the
student body," he said.
I could have asked Armstrong a
thousand follow-up questions while
admiring his positive attitude and
disarming smile, but unfortunately he
was already 10 minutes late for a study
group meeting. I took pity upon him
and let him go. And, as I left the Union
under the falling rain, I realized that I
was smilingnow as well. I was smiling
because I recognized that Armstrong
had run for all the right reasons. I was
smiling because his passion for LGBT
rights was evident, his determination
to improve MSA was crystal clear and
his humility in the face of his election
victory was striking. Armstrong is
intelligent, thoughtful, passionate and
determined. But most of all, his ability
to overcome adversity shows that he is
also fierce. Very fierce.
Armstrong's win is
a big deal for the
You may have not supported MFor-
ward or Armstrong's candidacy. You
may have abstained from voting in the
MSA elections: You may not even know
what purpose MSA serves. But what
everyone should recognize is that Arm-
strong's election is an important mile-
stone in the history of this University.
Two years after this country elected
the first African-American president,
as University students, we have played
our role and elected an openly gay
president to lead MSA.We've made our
little mark in the continuing quest for
civil rights and equality.
I ended my interview by ask-
ing Armstrong if he wished to share
something about himself with the
student body. "Well, hopefully after
this article they'll know I'm gay," he
laughed. "It makes the significance
real." This was, indeed, my initial
purpose for writing this article. As
someone who identifies as gay, I
wanted to emphasize the symbolism
and importance of Armstrong's vic-
tory. But after meeting Armstrong, I
realized there was a stronger message
I wanted to convey: You don't have to
be gay, lesbian or transgender to be
proud of your new MSA president.
- Tommaso Pavone can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Jordan Birnholtz, William Butler, Nicholas Clift,
Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee,
Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith,
Robert Soave,,Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith
Capitalism -.on cannabis
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be fewer than 300 words and must
include the writer's full name and University affiliation. All submissions become property of the Daily.
We do not print anonymous letters. Send letters to email@example.com.
Encouraging debate isn't bigotry
With everyone - from presidents to your
arthritic grandma - smoking weed, we've got a
lot of people talking about legalization. There's
some logic behind this.Weed doesn't cause near-
ly as much harm as tobacco or alcohol, for exam-
ple. Come on now, you're not going to see a kid
in the emergency room for cannabis poisoning.
Many think a good strategy would be to intro-
duce marijuana into the marketplace and tax the
hell out of it for a much-needed economic boost.
But as nice as the idea sounds at first, it's the last
thing even the most committed stoner needs.
See, corporations these days are trying to
entertain us with the most asinine and vulgar
crap they can get away with. Take video games
where you run around shooting prostitutes in
their jiggling ass-cheeks, or movies produced
by anyone whose name rhymes with "Cycle
Flay" or "Cherry Shmuckprimer." These are
fun ways to get intouch with the grunting ape-
creature in all of us, but if they were the only
things we absorbed through culture we'd be
back to clubbing people over the head and root-
ing through their loincloths for flint. Thank-
fully, most of us can only be shovel-fed shit for
so long before we realize what it tastes like and
wander off to do something marginally more
productive for a while.
But consider that one of the major side-
effects of cannabis is that it makes everything
highly entertaining for unusually long stretch-
es of time. For example, I once watched some
clearly stoned frat boys laugh hysterically at
"Golden Girls" for the better part of four hours.
And they were just watching the DVD menu.
Do you see what I'm getting at here? Once
corporations get ahold of marijuana, it won't
be long before they're marketing it relentlessly
with all of their brain-slaughtering entertain-
ment, leaving all who succumb ditheringly
receptive to any crap chucked their way. I'm
thinking this is going to be especially awful
when applied to reality TV shows. I can hear
the ads: "If you're somehow not entertained
by watching a silicone-injected harpy shrilly
accusing the token gay guy of being 'fake,' you
aren't getting the full cannaboid experience!!"
Maybe they'll make a whole new channel called
Weed TV. The entire lineup would consist of
videos of cats with their mouths crudely ani-
mated to lip-sync along with hip-hop tracks.
And you know they're only going to play shitty
backpacker rap and hip hop.
Millions of hours of national productivity
may go down the toilet, but the silver lining is
that corporate advertising for weed is going to
be hilarious. I'm picturing a sexy model Photo-
shopped to have bloodshot eyes and a negative
body mass index, rocking some hemp linge-
rie and straddling a pizza box. Or maybe the
quintessential polo shirt-clad Upper Middle
Class White People Family, prancing merrily
out of their giant three-story house (that no
Americans actually have anymore unless they
live in a television commercial) and chortling
fondly with one another as Junior lights up a
big fat blunt with the faces of all of his favorite
Disney friends on it!
I hope this sounds entertaining to you,
because if marijuana is legalized we'll be gag-
ging on clouds of this crap. And let me let you in
on a little secret: THC, the chemical that cre-
ates the high in cannabis, stays in your fat cells
for a while. If you don't use it often, it's not a
big deal, but if you do more than about once a
week it starts building up, dampening the high.
That means you have to use more and more to
achieve the same effect, which means you start
spending exponentially more money.
Isn't that great? The more we buy, the more
we'll need to buy. Business loves shit like that!
It's been demonstrated that sugar creates
essentially the same addiction patterns, so now
we've got 16 sugar cubes per can of coke and
"medium" soft drinks at Burger King contain-
ing roughly the same amount of liquid as the
Marianas Trench. I can just imagine walking
into "Transformers IV: This Time No Fucking
Robots at All" and being assailed by glittering
displays reminding me to pick up my duffle bag
full of drugs at the concession stand. Just stuff
more and more of it into our systems so we
keep buying it in larger helpings and eventu-
ally we'll be so brain-dead we might actually
start caring about Shia LeBeouf.
Am I overreacting? Maybe. But thinking up
elaborate scenarios to panic about is the sec-
ond easiest way to waste spare time.
Eileen Stahl is an LSA senior.
During the latter half of the 19th century, American
physician and natural scientist Samuel George Mor-
ton claimed that Caucasians were the most intelligent
race based on skull size and capacity. Robert Bean, fol-
lowing up on the work of Morton, asserted that Ameri-
can blacks were less intelligent than American whites
because of inherent biological factors dependent largely
again on brain size. Both men were widely respected for
their scholarly research. Both men were also undoubtedly
wrong. Instead of accepting this fallacious idea of racial
superiority or, even worse, ignoring it, scientists like S. J.
Gould directly challenged Morton and Bean's hypotheses
and eventually proved them wrong.
On Mar. 18, the American Movement for Israel, the
Michigan Political Union and several other student
groups brought their own Samuel Morton or George Bean
to campus - Dr. Raphael Israeli. Israeli is a Chinese and
Middle Eastern history scholar at Hebrew University.
The professor spoke about China's global rise in the inter-
national community and its impact on the Middle East.
In response, three University students decided to express
their right to openly criticize the co-sponsors of the event
in a viewpoint published in the Daily (Stop bigotry in Mid-
dle East debate, 03/19/2010).
The students argued, among other things, that "while
Israeli's ideas shouldn't be censored, an explicit distinc-
tion should have been made between presenting his
scholarship and endorsing his politics. Bringing Israeli
to campus but failing to make this distinction constitutes
an implicit endorsement of his anti-Muslim views." Here,
it is beholden of me to invoke former U.S. Senator David
Patrick Moynihan's popular saying that a person is enti-
tled to his or her own opinion but not his or her own facts.
The MPU doesn't endorse Israeli's views on Muslims
and their supposed inability to integrate into western
societies. In fact, we vehemently reject his argument.
The MPU doesn't believe that race or in this case religion
can be attributed to biological factors. However, Israeli
shouldn't be completely vilified because one of his views
Israeli is a noted scholar on China and the Middle East.
Even the authors of the viewpoint conceded this point
in saying that, "we aren't necessarily challenging the
validity of Israeli's scholarship on China and the Middle
East." It was because MPU agreed with its critics that we
issued a statement of impartiality on our Facebook page
and website in which we explicitly stated that we didn't
support Israeli's views on Muslims or Islam. Rather, we
were dedicated to the advancement of his scholarship
regarding China.and the Middle East. This distinction
was reiterated at the actual event before Israeli took the
The authors of the viewpoints also devised a thought
experiment in which they argued that had Israeli been
"a white supremacist, anti-Semite or homophobe," public
reaction would have been different. And that "this dis-
turbing double standard of what constitutes acceptable or
unacceptable bigotry on campus needs to be re-examined
by student organizations looking to present diverse per-
spectives through the speakers they bring."
As a homosexual African-American man, I find their
thought experiment and its implications ludicrous and,
more importantly, offensive. Had Israeli been a speaker
who argued that homosexuals, African Americans or
Jews were inherently incapable of assimilating into west-
ern societies, I would have still invited him to lecture
had he been able to contribute something meaningful to
a conversation (as Israeli did on China and the Middle
East). I wouldn't have acted any differently in the way I
handled the two situations. I would have denounced the
hypothetical speaker's views on gays or blacks as falla-
cious and made the clear distinction that MPU didn't sup-
Moreover, the case of reggae artist Buju Banton is not
equitable to this situation. Banton isn't a scholar, wasn't
invited by a student organization and explicitly calls for
the pouring of acid in the eyes of gay people.
MPU stands behind its decision to co-sponsor the
Israeli event. Israeli gave a thought-provoking lecture
on China and the Middle East: nothing more, nothing
less. Even more importantly, the MPU will continue to
be open to all opinions on the ideological spectrum; con-
tinue to denounce any speech that incites violence against
a particular group; continue to work with groups from all
faiths, political orientations, sexual orientations, gender,
class and race to raise awareness; and continue to foster
intelligent political discourse on campus.
It is our sincere belief that the best way to confront
prejudice and discrimination is directly. It is only by chal-
lenging biased viewpoints and dismantling them that we
can hope to build a world that values all peoples for their
unique, individual differences.
Noel Gordon is the president of the Michigan Political Union.
The Daily is looking for diverse, passionate, strong student writers to join the
Editorial Board. Editorial Board members are responsible for discussing and writing
the editorials that appear on the left side of the opinion page.
E-MAIL RACHEL VAN GILDER AT RACHELVG@UMICH.EDU FOR MORE INFORMATION.