Penn Bioethics Seminar Series: Kimani Paul-Emile, JD, PhD
12:00pm - 1:00pm • via Zoom
FRAMING DRUGS: BATTLES OVER DRUG REGULATION AND HOW THEY CHANGED AMERICA
Kimani Paul-Emile, JD, PhD
Professor, Fordham University School of Law
Associate Director, Center on Race, Law & Justice
Faculty Co-Director, Stein Center for Law & Ethics
[This talk will NOT be recorded.]
Abstract: Drug regulations often seem inconsistent and incoherent, running counter to science and medicine. Tobacco, for example, can kill you, while anabolic steroids won’t, but you can purchase the former over the counter but not the latter. In addition, the way any particular drug is regulated can change over time even though scientific and medical knowledge regarding the drug remains unchanged. Thus, cannabis was once subject to some of the most rigid restrictions of any drug but is now on the cusp of total legalization. There is, however, a method to the madness, and this book examines that method, along with its social, legal, and cultural implications. Drug regulatory decision-making does much more than simply determine whether and under what circumstances certain drugs can be manufactured, purchased, and consumed. It also works under the surface to quietly shape popular understandings for race, instantiate gender roles, buttress capitalism, and undermine of the welfare state. This is particularly true for drugs that were at one time contested, such as cocaine, cannabis, anabolic steroids, patent medicines, opium, alcohol, OxyContin, tobacco, and contraception.
This book introduces “drug framing,” a heuristic for understanding how regulatory decisions regarding contested drugs are made. According to this heuristic, regulatory decision-making with respect to contested drugs is most accurately described as a high-stakes battle over how to convincingly frame a drug in accordance with the principles of a group’s preferred category: the medicine, consumer product, or social threat. Framing is, therefore, the allocation of meaning that precedes the legal or legislative work of drafting laws and regulations. Focusing on the pivotal, liminal, turning point when a drug is shifting from being understood as a medicine, consumer product, or social threat, this book illuminates how drug framing is used to change the popular meaning of particular drugs and their users. This enables regulators to treat drugs differently irrespective of the dangers the drugs may pose and independent of their health effects. In short, this book tells the story of contestation over drugs, how it occurs, what broader tensions it surfaces, and what it can tell us about the operation of power in America.
Dr. Kimani Paul-Emile is a Professor of Law; Associate Director and Head of Domestic Programs and Initiatives at Fordham Law School’s Center on Race, Law & Justice; and faculty co-director of the Fordham Law School Stein Center for Law & Ethics. Dr. Paul-Emile specializes in the areas of law & biomedical ethics, health law, anti-discrimination law, and race and the law.
For more information, contact Mary Pham, Mary.Pham@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.