Thursday 22nd February 2018,
The Transcript

Political scientist makes the case for drug decriminalization

Ana Arjona. Photo by Ela Mazumdar '16.

Ana Arjona speaks in the Benes Rooms. Photo by Ela Mazumdar ’16.

With Ohio’s upcoming ballot initiative to legalize the sale of marijuana, it is fitting that Ana Arjona, a political scientist and professor at Northwestern University, recently opened a dialogue on the drug war both at home and in Latin America.

Her lecture took place on Thursday, Sept. 24, in the Benes Rooms at Ohio Wesleyan, where students, faculty and Delaware residents filled the room.

Arjona’s primary goal for her presentation was to shed light on an issue that society has a tendency to avoid: drug laws.

“I think we need to have both a political and moral debate about the war on drugs in order for any real progress to be made,” said Arjona.

She explained the allure of drugs and the fact that decriminalization leads to higher rates of both consumption and production. The more government policies that are enacted against drugs, she argued, the higher the likelihood that drug abuse and crime will increase. Arjona called this “The Balloon Effect.”

She showed the audience data documenting high rates of death from drug­related gang wars.

“Most of the deaths happen to innocent people who are caught in the crossfire,” said Arjona.

She went on to talk about her support for decriminalization of marijuana in Ohio and in all US states.

“There are countries like Portugal who have refocused their drug policies in a way that targets health and that has been much more effective,” said Arjona. “Decriminalization doesn’t mean no regulation, it just means we change how we look at drug charges.”

“The ‘war on drugs’ is a humanitarian, political and economic issue,” said Arjona. “It is one with a widespread impact.”

After Arjona’s lecture, freshman Nicholas Melvin felt that he knew much more about the topic than he had before. “I attended this talk so that I could learn more about a subject I knew very little about,” he said. “I thought this presentation was very informative and did give me a deeper awareness on the subject.”

The program was hosted by the International Studies Program and introduced by the department chair professor Sean Kay.

“This was exciting for Ohio Wesleyan students because it is the kind of expertise that is presented in the corridors of strategic thinking and policy in the United States and Latin America,” said Kay.

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