The Constitutional Costs of the War on Drugs

Prof. Alejandro Madrazo Lajous, CIDE in Aguascalientes, Mexico

Public policies are supposed to be transitory measures meant to face and solve public problems. Constitutional design, by contrast, involves permanent decisions adopted to rule the inner workings of the polity and its government. Although policy is most often imagined as transitory and constitutional law as permanent, some policy decisions reconfigure constitutional design permanently. The talk will explain an analytic framework, called “ constitutional costs” for brevity’s sake, for rendering visible and understanding the impact of policy decisions on constitutional design. Transcending the categories of constitutionality or unconstitutionality of a legal change or policy allows for a more robust critical assessment of the constitutional implications of policy decisions. Regardless of their constitutionality, policy decisions and their consequences can come into tension with existing core constitutional commitments, significantly undermining them. Understanding how these dynamics play out in a long chronological arch is complex but important, for they can significantly change the way a constitutional system works, even if the depth and breadth of the changes are not acknowledged as they are adopted and implemented. By looking in detail at the war on drugs—a complex policy—in one salient case studies—Mexico— I flesh out the analytical proposal and exemplify how it can be deployed. 

About the speaker

Alejandro obtained an LL.B. (’02) from ITAM in Mexico City and both an LL.M. (’03) and a J.S.D. (’06) from Yale Law School. He is currently tenured Professor of Law at CIDE in Aguascalientes, Mexico, as part of the interdisciplinary Drug Policy Program. Before becoming a full-time professor in 2009 he practiced constitutional litigation, specializing in high-impact, public interest cases before Mexico’s Supreme Court, winning landmark cases on abortion law, same-sex marriage, tobacco control and anti-trust law.  He has published work on history of legal thought, constitutional law, sexual and reproductive rights,  drug policy, and tobacco control. He was a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University in 2013, and a Senior Fellow at the Orville H. Schell Center for International Human Rights Center at Yale Law School in 2017-2018.

Date: 21 May 2019

Time: 12:00 - 01:00  CEST