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“Drug Czar” Speaks at TJSL

April 24, 2015

On Wednesday, March 25, TJSL was honored to host founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, for a discussion titled “Legalizing Marijuana & Ending the Drug War: California’s Special Case.” Described as “the real drug Czar” by Rolling Stones magazine for his pivotal role in major drug policy reform ballot initiative campaigns across the country, Nadelmann’s presentation focused on his approach to ending the drug war through legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Years of study and interviews with agencies and individuals on both sides of the drug war have shaped Nadelmann’s approach to drug reform. Most easily explained by drawing parallels between current drug policy and the United States’ failed prohibitionist regulation of alcohol, Nadelmann’s drug reform policy is driven by the idea that legalizing and regulating most drugs would radically reduce the harms of drugs and the harms of prohibitionist polices such as violence and crime.

Nadelmann, who played a role in legalizing medical marijuana in California, is one of many leaders pushing for broader legalization in 2016. “California never set up a state wide regulatory system,” Nadelmann says of current medical marijuana regulations. “So you have places like San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley where the medical marijuana is regulated, there are health authorities, and there is zoning and licensing. Then you have places like Los Angeles where 100 dispensaries pop up overnight.” Nadelmann expects broader legalization of marijuana will increase its use among people between the ages of 40 to 80 and benefit the public by generating tax revenue.

“There is no inherent reason why the criminal justice system needs to be a part of drug policy,” Nadelmann told the audience. “Maybe for certain types of drugs and certain types of sales. But what that means is we have to legalize marijuana in California and other states by 2016. It means we have to stop putting people in jail for simple drug possession. It means that we need to build a coalition between the left, right and center. The coalition for people who love their drugs, the people who hate their drugs and the people who don’t give a damn about drugs but all who believe that the war has got to end.”

“The discussion was insightful,” said Amanda Wang 2L. “Ethan Nadelmann’s comments differentiating between dependence and addiction were logical and it was great for him to address many of the common misconceptions people hold that marijuana has detrimental effects on long term memory or that it is a gateway drug.”

“I really loved the talk. I have done my own research on the subject prior to the lecture, so I knew the basic reasons why people are attempting to get marijuana legalized,” said Chris Asmar 2L. “However, the speaker has given me new insight into, and appreciation of, marijuana legalization.”

The event was co-sponsored by TJSL’s Center for Law and Social Justice and the Institute for Humane Studies. “The law school community had the chance to hear from the nation’s leader on drug policy reform efforts, in a talk that covered marijuana legalization to mandatory minimums and everything in between,” said organizer and Director of the Center of Social Justice, Professor Alex Kreit regarding the event.

The final Center for Law and Social Justice event of the semester, will be held on Tuesday, April 28th from 11:30 – 12:45 in room 227. “We’ll be hosting Diane Goldstein, a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who served as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department,” said Professor Kreit. “Goldstein is currently an Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. The title of the lecture is: Policing, Public Health and the Drug War. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear a unique perspective on drug law enforcement from an engaging speaker.” If you are interested in attending, please be sure to RSVP.