University of Richmond Tackles War on Drugs and War on YOUth

As part of the War on YOUth activism project, Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Richmond decided to focus specifically on the War on Drugs. Our chapter started off the War on YOUth National Activism season with a debate on April 1, April Fools Day.

The event was no joke, though. During the planning stages for this debate, a member of our club suggested we make a play on words in the title. Our student union building is named the Tyler Haynes Commons. Hence the name THC in THC: The Drug Debate. The provocative title (and the brownies that we served *wink* *wink*) enticed many people to attend. 

Drug War Pong Cup

A lot of our success for this event came from the wonderful advertising skills of Kelly Farley, our new Publicity Chair. She created a large poster (seen below) and created a Facebook event that all of our members invited their friends to. In all, over 30 people said they would show up through the Facebook event page and many more passerby expressed their interest. Tour groups and other prospective students also passed by, so we gave them a small dose of YAL before they get here in the fall. Most notably though, the President of University of Richmond, Ed Ayers, walked past the table and smiled when he saw our poster.  When we informed him about the purpose of the event and that we were serving brownies, he gave us a thumbs up. 

Poster for Drug Debate         

At the event itself we asked Kyle Linardo, our YAL Chapter Treasurer, to moderate. We had two professors from our leadership school, the Jepson Leadership School. They were Drs. Jessica Flanigan and Thad Williamson. We also extended an invitation to one of University of Richmond Police Department’s detectives, Detective Tim Meacham. Dr. Jessica Flanigan was the most liberal on the issue stating that she thinks marijuana and all other drugs should be legal and available for sale at stores such as CVS. She believes that this will make our streets safer by reducing the black-market for drugs. She cited a study done on the impacts of drug legalization in Portugal. I enjoyed it most when she declared to the crowd that she identifies as a libertarian.

Detective Meacham would not necessarily support legalization of marijuana, especially after reading a study on the brain abnormalities in pot smokers. However, he’s not necessarily against legalization. One of his best quotes from the night is featured in our video. He said “I’d rather deal with somebody who was stoned than somebody who was drunk… If you give them a bag of chips you’ve made a best friend for life.”

Dr. Thad Williamson stated his support of legalization of marijuana, however he is cautious about the legalization of other drugs. He believes decriminalization of other drugs would be more beneficial, removing some of the racism associated with drug laws. He encouraged people to organize if they felt particularly passionate about reforming drug laws. Below are is a photo of me introducing the debaters: from left to right: YAL Treasurer and Debate Moderator, Kyle Linardo; Dr. Jessica Flanigan; Dr. Thad Williamson; Detective Tim Meacham. There is also a photo of part of the crowd that showed up to the debate.

Debaters 2

Debate Crowd

Overall this event was extremely successful. We made contacts within the Jepson Leadership School, which may turn into a great resource for hosting future speakers or holding more on-campus debates. Many professors we approached to participate, but who could not attend the event, offered extra credit or at least publicized our event to their classes. The student and faculty communities now recognize the Young Americans for Liberty name, which means we are doing a great job with education and outreach. Our school newspaper, the Collegian, covered the event. Over 50 people attended and we got about 20 sign-ups. This was also a springboard we used for telling people about our War on YOUth tabling event.

Debate Crowd 2
Our chapter ended our War on YOUth Season with tabling on April 16, the day after Tax Day. Many people stopped by to try their hand at the Debt Pong set. A few people made it in and we had candy bars to give out as prizes. If a person didn’t make it in, our consolation prize was a Hershey’s kiss! Students, faculty, and visitors were interested in learning about our national debt and ways to reduce it. Ending the drug war and reducing military spending tended to resonate with the more liberal crowd, while ending Obamacare and entitlement spending resonated with the more conservative crowd. 

Debt Banner

Pong Set 2

Tabling Duo

Pong Set 3

Observer of the Debt 2

Pong Set 4

Pong Set 5

Please enjoy our video of the event! 

Credit goes to all of our YAL members for putting on such an amazing activism project: Jeff (concept), Tyler (creating debate questions and format), Kyle (moderating debate and assisting Tyler), Cameron (taking video of the debate), Joe (directing tabling), Kelly (publicity), and Alex (contacting school newspaper), and me (organizing debaters, outreach to departments, and creating blogpost/video).

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