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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

The Civics series at Town Hall shines a light on the shifting issues, movements, and policies, that affect our society, both locally and globally. These events pose questions and ideas, big and small, that have the power to inform and impact our lives. Whether it be constitutional research from a scholar, a new take on history, or the birth of a movement, it's all about educating and empowering.

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Town Hall is a gathering place where ideas are planted and movements grow. It’s where we come together as a community to listen and be heard—to ask and answer the big questions facing our city and our world. Annually, we present hundreds of artists and scholars, and collaborate with more than 150 grassroots groups in our self-produced programs. Rooted in the belief that we all deserve a voice, our programming reflects—and inspires—our region's best impulses: creativity, empathy, and innovation. With our podcast series, we take one more step towards making our programming accessible to all. 

Feb 12, 2018

In the last five years, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana. To many, continued progress seems certain. But pot was on a similar trajectory forty years ago, only to encounter a fierce backlash. Historian Emily Dufton took our stage to share a comprehensive history of marijuana—from its decriminalization in a dozen states during the 1970s to its transformation into a national scourge by concerned parents, a movement paving the way for an aggressive war on drugs. Chastened marijuana advocates retooled their message, promoting pot as a medical necessity and eventually declaring legalization a matter of racial justice. In her book Grass Roots, Dufton tells the remarkable story of marijuana’s crooked path from acceptance to demonization and back again, and of the thousands of grassroots activists who made changing marijuana laws their life’s work. She showed us how, for the moment, these activists are succeeding—but how marijuana’s history suggests that another counter-revolution could soon unfold.

Emily Dufton is a writer based near Washington D.C. She holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University, and has served as a commentator on the History Channel as well as NPR’s Back Story with the American History Guys. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Atlantic, History News Network, and Run Washington.

Recorded live at University Lutheran Church by Town Hall Seattle on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.