Protesters rally in support of the legalization of marijuana in front of The White House in Washington DC on April 2, 2016. Rena Schild/

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ­– The U.S. and countries around the world continue to struggle with the infiltration of drugs in society. Four experts will examine the topic at a symposium, “The Global Illicit Drug Trade: Confronting Challenges and Exploring Solutions,” at Middlebury College on Friday, October 28. The event, the International Politics and Economics (IPE) Program’s fifth annual symposium, was organized by Mark Williams and Sebnem Gumuscu, faculty members in the Political Science Department, and Will Pyle, director of the IPE Program and an economics professor.

“The global drug trade is a $400 billion a year business,” explained Williams, who each year teaches a course on “The Political Economy of Drug Trafficking.” “While the trade itself has powerful effects on the producer, consumer, and countries where the drugs are transported, many policies adopted to combat the trade have had equally negative effects on these nations’ societies. At the same time, the policies haven’t eliminated the trade itself. We hope this symposium can provide insights into how to manage these problems more effectively.”

“In the last five years we’ve seen dramatic changes just in the marijuana policy landscape here in the United States,” said Pyle. “And marijuana is only one element in the vast world of drugs. This year’s symposium offers an opportunity to assess the drug trade’s global scope and the anti-drug policies adopted to combat it.”

Peter Reuter, professor in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland, will kick off the program, discussing the flaws in international drug policy. He will also touch on the emergence of new drugs and how they are affecting international trade.

Senior policy researcher Beau Kilmer of the RAND Corporation will give a talk on the legalization of marijuana, comparing potential policy in the U.S. to new developments internationally, such as Uruguay’s recent decision to become the first country in the world to remove the prohibition on marijuana and begin experimenting with legalization.

Alejandro Madrazo, senior researcher in the Drug Policy Program at CIDE, a Mexican research center, will focus on the impact the drug war has had on civil liberties, the rule of law, and the constitutional commitments made by governments to their citizenries in countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and the United States.

Middlebury College Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Rebecca Tiger will address how ideas about the harms of drugs and the problem of addiction have evolved over time. She will also touch on ways in which emerging alternative policies towards drugs have the potential to move beyond the failed approach of the “War on Drugs.”

Student IPE majors will introduce each speaker and moderate the question and answer session that follows each talk.

All talks will take place in the conference room of the Robert A. Jones ’59 House.

The symposium was sponsored by Academic Affairs; the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs; the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity; the Economics, Political Science, and Sociology and Anthropology Departments; the Global Health, Latin American Studies, and European Studies Programs; and the Pre-Law Club.

For More Information

Symposium Events Schedule