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Talking Head

A conversation with marijuana advocate Steve Hager

Steve Hager, self-proclaimed World's Most Famous Head, faced off against Robert Stutman, self-proclaimed World's Most Famous Fed, during two debates last week in -- where else? -- Hempfield Township.


The unholy union of Hager, former editor of High Times magazine, and Stutman, former head of the New York office of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has had its verbal brawl in more than 100 campuses across the U.S. in the past three years.


During their Feb. 18 debate at St. Vincent College and The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Stutman, who looks like Kojak (sans lollipop), touted his insider knowledge of drug cartels in New York City during the 1980s. Hager, a wispy gray-haired man partial to rose-colored socks, called himself a hippie crusader for all things hemp.


Hager is the author of several books on hip hop, the counterculture and secret societies (including, he likes to note, Yale's Skull and Bones club, whose members include John Kerry and George W. Bush). Stutman declined to be interviewed.


What do you think of Robert Stutman?

He's not John Ashcroft. He's a decent human being.


So would you say you're friends?

I respect him. The first time we saw each other was at this debate in Florida. He was standing at one podium and I was standing at the other podium. And he got so red-faced and angry, I thought he was going to come over and punch me. I'm a pacifist, but I really yanked every chain in him.


Which chains?

I'd started talking about corruption, how the price of marijuana is so out of whack. It should be the cheapest commodity on earth. It grows everywhere. But instead of being a dollar a pound, it's $8,000 a pound. So what happens to all that money?  It gets funneled into criminal enterprises. It corrupts everything. And so, when I got into that corruption aspect, [Stutman] thought I was accusing the DEA of being corrupt. That's not really the case. Most law enforcement people are honest, decent people, just like all the people in the world.


How would you solve the corruption problem?

Give the money to farmers instead of criminals. Let's stop giving criminals $8,000 a pound when farmers can do it for a dollar.


How would legalizing pot affect the U.S. economy?

It would be devastating to the petrochemical industry, to legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But who cares? They can absorb anything. Twenty years from now, we'll be dealing with the serious health damage done by drugs like Prozac. The government says it doesn't want to legalize pot because people will be stoned all the time. Look at someone on Prozac and tell me that person isn't stoned. In my time, no one was on Prozac or Ritalin. Now, about a third of the audiences I speak to are, and have been since they were in junior high or grade school. A dude's 3 years old and you put him on Ritalin or Paxil?  The devastation is going to be up there with what's happening with tobacco right now. Billions in lawsuits. And they pay it! Imagine the profits these companies have amassed to be able to absorb this kind of cost.


How would legalizing pot stop the over-prescription of legal drugs like Prozac?

Marijuana is good medicine for depression. It's also good for multiple sclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer's, insomnia, muscle spasms, eating disorders and on and on. Plus it's safe and it can be free. Free! That's why it threatens pharmaceutical companies. We're in a health-care crisis in this country. So many people don't have health care. Most seniors are taking 12 different medicines a day. So allow us to grow our own medicine in our own yards if we can't afford your health-care system.


But even the tobacco companies agree that smoking is bad for you.

For god's sake, don't smoke marijuana! Put a little pot in a vaporizer. It's much better for you. Plus it doubles your stash.


What about people who argue, as in Reefer Madness, that pot can kill?

A lethal dose of marijuana is 1,500 pounds consumed within 15 minutes. It's easier to kill yourself with potatoes.

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