Julian Castro and Bertha Madras finally set to hold their delayed marijuana legalization debate for this spring's Janus Forum

After their initial event was canceled due to COVID-19 two years ago, on Wednesday, March 9 former Democratic candidate for president Julián Castro and Harvard Medical School psychobiology professor Dr. Bertha Madras will finally take the stage for the Spring 2022 Janus Forum to hash out the topic, “Let’s Be Blunt: Should Marijuana Be Legalized?”

The free but ticketed event will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Wilks Theater in the Armstrong Student Center. A reception is set to follow in the Pavilion. Tickets are available at the Miami University box office.

“The discussion of how our laws deal with marijuana is an old debate but also a very new one – with rapid changes happening around the country, including in Ohio,” said Patrick Haney, Associate Dean and Professor of Political Science. “After our setback of two years ago, this will be a great opportunity for the Miami community to hear from two great speakers in person about the topic more broadly than perhaps we have before.”

The Janus Forum will be moderated once again by Reena Murphy, an Environmental Science and Geographic Information Systems graduate student. She will pose questions to guests Castro and Madras, who have demonstrated specific viewpoints in the marijuana debate during their very different yet distinguished careers.

Julián Castro

Julián Castro

A public servant for nearly two decades, Castro served as the 16th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017, and as mayor of San Antonio from 2009 to 2014. Today, Castro serves on the board of directors of the LBJ Foundation. He was also a Democratic candidate for U.S. president.

“As president, I will legalize marijuana and expunge the records of those convicted for non-violent marijuana offenses,” Castro states on his campaign website. “We will regulate the market and place a tax on all recreational sales, investing billions in revenue generated in the communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs.”

Born to unmarried parents in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of a struggling city, Castro represents how the American Dream still lives within reach to everyone. He has been at the forefront of some of the most innovative partnerships, programs and achievements in the public sector.

As mayor, Castro implemented pre-K4SA, a high quality early childhood learning initiative that has earned praise as one of America’s strongest public pre-kindergarten programs. During his tenure, San Antonio ranked first on the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities List, received an A+ grade for doing business by Forbes, and was the only Top 10 city at the time to achieve a Triple A bond rating with each of the three major ratings agencies.

Dr. Bertha Madras

Dr. Bertha Madras

Throughout her career, Madras has served as a research scientist, inventor, educator, writer, editor, former government official, public speaker, and member of President Trump’s now-disbanded Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. She is currently professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and has spoken authoritatively on topics ranging from drug policy and addiction to effective prevention, intervention and treatment. She is also well-versed on the biological risks and effects of various kinds of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and opioids.

“The public health problem is that adolescents are far more vulnerable to drug addiction if they initiate drug use during early adolescence,” she said in a 2011 interview. “The prevalence of addiction is five times higher for marijuana and for alcohol if they initiate use at the age of 14 or younger compared with initiation of use at the age of 18 or older. And that’s a very critical problem, because it is obvious that we have to summon all our resources to prevent drug use amongst these younger people.”

Madras has presented to the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the World Health Organization, the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the World Federation Against Drugs, and others. As an HMS faculty member and neuroscientist for 30 years, her research on psychoactive or therapeutic drugs, brain imaging, and others is published in over 200 manuscripts, articles, books, book chapters, and commentaries.

“I’m honored to return as moderator for The Janus Forum, which provides an important platform for members of our community to think critically about relevant political and social issues,” said Murphy. “The legalization of marijuana presents substantial socioeconomic, racial, and medical implications.”

A catalyst for developing timely, interesting, and rigorous discussion of public affairs, the Janus Forum is sponsored by the Department of Political Science thanks to the generous support of Thomas W. Smith ’50 and the Menard Family Center for Democracy.

The Janus Forum welcomes diverse input from the audience, who are encouraged to submit questions during the forum using #janusmiamioh on Twitter. For more information, visit the Janus Forum website or contact Patrick Haney at