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S.J. Quinney College of Law Fordham Debate to explore economic, medicinal and criminal arguments for and against cannabis laws.

Should marijuana be legalized in the United States? That controversial question will be the subject of the 33rd Annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate on Oct. 19, sponsored by the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

The debate begins at 6 p.m. in the moot courtroom on the sixth floor of the law school, 383 S. University Street. It also will be streamed live on the law school’s YouTube channel.

The event is free, but RSVPs are requested by visiting this link or emailing

As of June, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form—with most endorsing its medicinal use. Advocates believe legalization of marijuana will help enhance well-being of citizens and boost states’ economic prospects, while reducing crime associated with illicit drug markets. Opponents argue that legalization will only lead to more dependency and usage of other drugs, harming young people and increasing criminal activity. Who is right?

Two of the nation’s leading experts—Kevin Sabet and Paul Butler—will explore this evolving topic during the debate, which will be moderated by U law professor Shima Baughman, a nationally recognized expert in criminal law.

Sabet is the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and has researched and written about drug policy for almost two decades. He worked in the Clinton (2000) and Bush (2002-2003) administrations and was senior advisor to President Barack Obama’s drug control director. He is the author of the book “Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana.”

Butler is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and is one of the nation’s most frequently consulted scholars on race and criminal justice.  Butler has been a columnist for The Legal Times and lectures regularly for the American Bar Association and the NAACP. He is a recipient of the Soros Justice Fellowship and was elected in 2003 to the American Law Institute. Butler is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”

Baughman’s research on drugs and violence has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist and other media outlets. Her article “Drugs and Violence” was published in the USC Law Review last year.

The Fordham Debate honors professor Jefferson B. Fordham, an outstanding legal scholar and defender of individual and civil rights, who joined the University of Utah College of Law in 1972. The annual debate addresses notable public policy and legal issues.