Debating recreational pot from personal and community perspectives

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

A post from NewsWorks blogger Solomon Jones against the legalization of recreational marijuana sparked a response from South Jersey medical marijuana patient and legalization advocate Jay Lassiter. We invited both men to NewsWorks Tonight to discuss how they came to such different conclusions.

Colorado and the state of Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and at least one lawmaker in New Jersey wants his state to follow suit.

Recently NewsWorks blogger Solomon Jones, who has been clean of marijuana and cocaine nearly 18 years, wrote about how he doesn’t want recreational pot to be legal here.

In the blog post, he explained why he doesn’t want harsh prosecutions of people for pot possession, but he still worries about the effects of recreational weed on neighborhoods like the one where he grew up in Philadelphia.

It sparked a lot of responses, including one from Jay Lassiter, a medical marijuana patient from South Jersey who also advocates for greater legalization.

.@jay_lass @NewsWorksWHYY I can’t be any more honest than this I’d like I hear your honesty too.

— Solomon Jones (@solomonjones1) February 7, 2014


So we brought the two into our studio for them to talk about why they came to such opposite conclusions.

Click the yellow “speaker” button above to reveal the audio player and hear their conversation.

Learning from experience

Jones started out saying he is against recreational pot because of his problems with the drug and its effects on others. “In my experience, all the people I saw fall by the wayside, lose their lives, lose themselves, started out with marijuana,” Jones said.

Lassiter responded that he thinks legalizing it could have more positive impact in the very communities Jones is talking about.  “I live in a leafy suburban community in New Jersey. When I advocate for marijuana legalization I’m not doing it for me, because I’m good. If I get popped smoking a joint on the beach, they’re probably going to slap me on the wrist and send me home,” he said. But he pointed out that a kid in North Philly might not be so lucky.

Jones answered back that he supports decriminalizing marijuana, as is under consideration in Philadelphia City Council, but he doesn’t want to go beyond that. “We’ve seen people go from marijuana to heroin. We’ve seen people with boundless potential just lose themselves and watched our communities crumble, watched our families crumble,” he said.

“Keeping marijuana illegal, and criminalizing it, and treating it so punitively, is not how I believe we lower pot use,” replied Lassiter. He suggested that talking more honestly about marijuana with kids could help cut use, in a way similar to how smoking rates have declined the more people discussed the health risks involved.

After listening to the exchange between Jones and Lassiter, where do you fall in the debate over recreational pot legalization? Tell us in the comments below.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal