Drug War Critique: What Critics Get Wrong About Marijuana Legalization

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY, and discusses the brown bag talk he gave at Utica College earlier this week. 

Yesterday afternoon, I gave a talk entitled, “Drug War Critique: What Critics Get Wrong About Marijuana Legalization.” The talk is part of a monthly brown bag speaker series sponsored by Utica College’s Center for Historical Research. In light of New York State’s recent efforts to push for the legalization of marijuana as part of Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 Justice Agenda, I decided to present Cuomo’s legalization proposal and respond to a series of critiques of Cuomo’s plan presented by public officials and parent groups last week, who cited a threat to public safety as a justification for their opposition.

Screenshot 2019-02-14 at 8.26.51 AM

The purpose of my remarks was to lay out the social justice aspects of Cuomo’s plan and explain how critiques of legalization fail to take into account the historical inequities in enforcement. I argue that while any sound anti-drug policy must consider public safety as a priority, public safety must be applied equitably. I also suggest that the enforcement paradigm at the forefront of current drug control approaches is being challenged by social justice advocates for legalization, emphasizing a sound and equitable enforcement regime, while reinvesting revenues back into communities devastated by the War on Drugs.

The talk was attended by mostly students from Utica College, and was followed by a short question and answer period which is included in the clip. My thanks to Dr. David Wittner for inviting me to speak, and my friend Devin Mahoney who filmed the talk and subsequent discussion.