Making Sense of Drug Regulation

Kimani Paul-Emile, LAPA Fellow; Fordham Law School

Fri, 04/30/2021 - 10:30am
via Zoom - RSVP requested
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. 

Abstract:  "How can a drug be regulated differently over time and differently from other similar drugs irrespective of the dangers it may pose and independent of its health effects? For example, although tobacco products are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, they can be bought and sold legally by adults, while marijuana, a substantially safer drug, is subject to the highest level of drug control. In addition, marijuana has been regulated differently over time, notwithstanding that the state of scientific and medical knowledge regarding its health effects remains unchanged. Thus, marijuana has transformed from a commonly used drug to a substance thought to incite violence and create crazed “dope fiends” to the brink of legalization and then to an illicit yet fairly benign and potentially healing drug. This book posits a conceptual model for making sense of this dissonance and applies it to the regulation of seven common drugs: cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, opioids, alcohol, emergency contraceptives, and anabolic steroids. Through the examination of these drugs, the model shows how the inconsistencies and incoherence of the U.S. system of drug control have been achieved and sustained, along with the implication for race and gender. Indeed, the model reveals how during processes for determining how a drug will be regulated, female gender status and nonwhite racial status have been constructed as not merely social or political identities, but as seemingly neutral and natural biological realities. In this way, drug regulatory processes have often shaped popular understanding of race and gender as meaningful biological facts. This book illuminates how social, political, and economic power are exercised through efforts to control drugs, and fundamentally reframes how we should think about drug regulation, revealing it to be a specific and penetrating mode of governance."

Kimani Paul-Emile
2020-2021 LAPA Fellow
Fordham Law

Kimani Paul-Emile specializes in the areas of law and biomedical ethics, health law, antidiscrimination law, and race and the law. At Fordham, she also serves Associate Director and Head of Domestic Programs and Initiatives at the Center on Race, Law and Justice, and as faculty co-director of its Stein Center for Law and Ethics.  Professor Paul-Emile’s scholarship has been published widely in leading law reviews as well as in the New England Journal of Medicine and covered by national and international news outletsFor her article, “Blackness as Disability,” she received the Law and Society Association’s 2019 John Hope Franklin Prize, awarded for exceptional scholarship in the field of Race, Racism and the Law.”  Professor Paul-Emile served as associate counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and practiced civil rights law at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she was a National Association for Public Interest Law (now Equal Justice Works) Fellow and later the William Moses Kunstler Fellow for Racial Justice. She also served as Senior Faculty Development Consultant at the New York University Center for Teaching Excellence.  Professor Paul-Emile holds an A.B. degree in Political Science and American Civilization, with honors, from Brown University, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.  At LAPA, she will be working on a book project that examines how lawmakers are able to regulate drugs differently irrespective of the dangers the drugs may pose and independent of their health effects, and the process followed to achieve this phenomenon.