FSEM1010-07.FSEM: Just Say Know.F15.Berkson,Mark

Faculty Name

Mark Berkson

Document Type






Course Subject


Course Number


Course Section


Course Title

FSEM: Just Say Know

Academic Term and Year

Fall 2015



Area of Study


Course Description

Should adults be able to decide what they put into their own bodies? Should the state be able to tell us what we can and cannot ingest? If so, what criteria should be employed in deciding what should be legal and what should be illegal? What should be the penalties for violating these laws? Is the taking of a drug (e.g., peyote) for religious purposes protected by the First Amendment? Should employers have the right to test their employees for evidence of drug use? Should farmers be allowed to grow hemp? How should children be educated about drugs? Is a “Drug War” the most appropriate or productive metaphor for addressing issues of drug use and abuse? What are the alternatives? And what is a “drug” anyway? These are just some of the questions we will be exploring in this seminar. It is clear that drug policy is one of the most important issues in America today. Its impact extends to the spheres of law and criminal justice, economics, race, civil liberties, religious freedom, agriculture, public health and foreign policy. And yet there was no meaningful discussion of drug policy from either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney during the entire presidential campaign. What can account for this silence? The country seems to be deeply divided on these issues. While some politicians call for a more punitive approach, many states are trying new approaches (including the legalization of cannabis), and governors and mayors from across the ideological spectrum are calling for the reform of drug laws. In this course, we will explore a number of approaches to drug policy, ranging from total prohibition to complete legalization, as well as numerous positions in between. We will read a variety of different kinds of texts, including autobiographical accounts of drug addicts whose habits have destroyed their lives; artists and writers whose drug use plays a part in the creative process; prisoners who are serving 20 year sentences for first-time offenses; and religious seekers for whom drugs are part of the spiritual quest. We will also read scholarly treatments of the issue, such as Mark Kleiman’s Against Excess, Carl Hart’s High Price, Rod Evans’ Drug Legalization: For and Against, and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. We will hear from guest speakers and watch films that address drug-related issues. Students will write papers dealing with different aspects of drug policy; these papers will be brought together in a manual complete with policy recommendations at the end of the course.

This document is currently not available here.