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Wayne State symposium looks at reforming marijuana laws

Panelists offered a variety of perspectives on marijuana laws at the annual Wayne State University law review symposium Friday.

The largely civil conversation ranged widely, from the potential benefits of legalizing and taxing marijuana, to the perils of legalizing a drug that many think would be hard to regulate.

One symposium panelist was Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to the National Office of Drug Control Policy.

Sabet opposes state efforts to legalize marijuana for any reason. He’s worked for both Republican and Democratic Presidents, and says that position has been a consistent one across Presidential administrations—including the Obama administration.

“The Obama administration has authorized more raids on commercial marijuana outlets than the Bush administration,” Sabet said. “Now that may just be because there have been more of them since them since the Obama administration has taken over, but it’s an interesting fact.”

However, Sabet says a growing body of scientific research shows the marijuana plant do have legitimate medical uses. But he believes those uses should be channeled through FDA-approved pharmaceuticals.

Organizer Jessica Bujkowski says the law students try to pick a current and controversial legal topic for the symposium every years.

She says with ongoing litigation over Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act and a proposed state constitutional amendment to legalize pot altogether, this fit the bill.

“We just felt this would be a great topic. And it happened to be really timely, with the ballot initiative in Michigan,” Bujkowski said. “It gained a lot of interest, and we were able to get a good variety of experts.”

The symposium featured former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox as the keynote speaker. Cox said he wasn’t “philosophically” opposed to legalizing marijuana, but he didn’t think it was practical because it would be difficult to regulate.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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