WU Professor Speaks on Legalization

College is an important part of a person’s life; for many young undergraduates it is not only a chance to be educated academically it also gives them the chance to explore controversial topics and develop their own personal world view.

Next week students will be given the opportunity to explore one of these topics by attending Let’s be Blunt about Blunts: the Economics of Marijuana, a lecture that will discuss the economic impact of decriminalizing and/or legalizing marijuana.

The event is sponsored by Young Americans for Liberty, a student group that, according to their website, seeks to recruit, train, educate, and mobilize students on the ideals of liberty and the Constitution. The lecture will be given by Washburn associate professor of economics Paul Byrne.

“A former student of mine who is in the Washburn Chapter of Young Americans for Liberty asked me to give the talk,” said Byrne. “I cover the economics of prohibition, decriminalization and legalization in a class I teach on public policy topics. This gives other Washburn students the opportunity to discuss the topic without having to take an entire semester of economics.”

Byrne hopes that the lecture will give the students an opportunity to gain insight into how prohibition and legalization impact the marijuana market. The economic impact of changing marijuana laws will be covered as well.

“I also plan on discussing some of the broader philosophical and economic arguments for and against prohibition,” said Byrne. “My goal is not to sway opinions, but to hopefully have people who attend see things through an economic perspective that they may not have otherwise considered. It is prudent for us to be fully informed. Legal or not, economic forces still drive markets.”

Hamad Nooh, Washburn student and officer with the campus chapter of YAL, recognizes the need to re-evaluate state and local marijuana laws, which have been the source of controversy and debate since our neighbors in Colorado legalized the crop earlier this year.

“As an organization, we believe that Kansans are deeply concerned with issues such as marijuana, especially with college students,” said Nooh.“Kansas farmers, entrepreneurs and people who need to use medical marijuana as an affordable mean to their illness.”

On a societal level, Nooh compares today’s war on drugs to the early 1900s when prohibition led to an increase in violent crime across the country.

“The total failure of alcohol prohibition was an important lesson for many,” said Nooh. “But there are still too many who do not realize that the harm done by alcohol prohibition was not nearly as bad as what we suffer today with ill-advised modern war on drugs.”

Through this lecture, Nooh hopes to raise awareness on not only the legalization issue, but also civil liberties and a much needed revisioning of the country’s prison system.

Perhaps the biggest stigma associated with the legalization debate stems from the perception that legalization advocates are driven by an agenda that’s focused more on recreational use than economic, medicinal or societal benefit. This notion is not lost on Byrne, who is guarded when giving his personal thoughts on the matter.

“Every policy has costs and benefits, and people have different subjective valuations of the costs and benefits of a policy,” said Byrne. “Legalization of marijuana is no different, so reasonable people can come down on opposite sides of the issue.”

Let’s Get Blunt About Blunts: the Economics of Marijuana will take place at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9 in Mabee Library.

The Young Americans for Liberty hold weekly meetings at 1:00 p.m. every Tuesday in the Crane Room in Memorial Union.

For additional information, please contact Hamad Nooh at [email protected] or visit them online at