After a short meeting with PureHempFarms, we came up with the idea to host a public, informal debate on the pros and cons of Cannabis legalization. Being a fairly contentious topic, we believed that this would be a great way to get some exposure for the group as well as to jump start a conversation about (whether you believe this is a positive thing or not) an issue that seems to weigh heavily on the minds of many college students.
After setting the date, it took us only two weeks to put the entire debate together. Much of the preparation for an event like this centers around a few key things: getting solid, respected members of your faculty or community to debate the two sides (mainly because you want their opinion to carry weight with the audience), reserving a room with the proper specifications (as you can see from the pictures, the room took was prepped extensively, for which we thank the great members of the IUK maintenance staff), generating enough “buzz” in order to fill the seats with audience members, finding a respected, impartial moderator (we chose a political science professor), and coming up with a solid list of questions to pitch to the participants.
In order to get the conversation started on campus, and generate some publicity for our event, we decided to reach out to the student body by allowing them to submit questions to us in advance and have them asked at the debate. We also hosted a variation of the free speech wall, in which we got a large whiteboard (pictured) and wrote “Should we Legalize? Why?” or some variation thereof. After setting up in a high traffic part of campus, we allowed students to write down why they thought Cannabis should, or should not, be legalized. It was a great conversation starter, and I feel it contributed in a big way to our success in filling the seats for the debate. We hosted this pre-debate event one day prior to the debate itself, on November 16. I advise to host the pre-debate event no more than two days before your debate itself, in order to ensure that the topic is still fresh in people’s minds.
As it would turn out, our extensive preparation paid off. We had roughly 30 people (not including us) show up to watch the debate. The debaters talked for two whole hours, a full hour past what I had originally anticipated. Another tip is to pass out index cards to the audience as they arrive, and allow them to write down questions that they want asked during the latter half of the debate. Be extra sure to vet these questions before pitching them, however, in order to ensure that the same question is not asked twice.
All in all this was a fantastic event, and something that I feel many YAL chapters can accomplish with nothing more than a solid work ethic and a motivated team to make it happen. It can be a lot of fun for students to see their favorite professors debating the finer points of Cannabis legalization, and can serve as a great segue into getting students involved in the Liberty movement!