Drug Policy and the War on Drugs: A Classroom Debate


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The objective of this classroom activity is to familiarize students with current drug policy and the United States’ War on Drugs. When asked, most students agree that possession or distribution of certain drugs should be criminalized. However, there is mounting evidence that the War on Drugs is not an effective tool for fighting the “drug problem” in the U.S. and that the war has had myriad consequences on disadvantaged groups (Alexander 2011; Chin 2002; Nunn 2002; Robinson and Scherlen 2010). For these reasons, it is important that students not only understand current drug policy, but also that they begin to consider alternatives to the status quo. The focus of this exercise it to help students to develop their higher order and critical thinking skills by forcing them to examine and critique existing policy, and also be able to create policy based on their own research. By focusing specifically on marijuana policy in the X state (wherever your college is located), students will be able to examine a specific policy students will be able to look at the effects of drug policy in a place that may directly affect them and they will be able to be more specific and critical than they would if they were trying to critique U.S. drug policy as a whole.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Breanna C. Stewart, University of Akron 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
College 200 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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This assignment was created as part of a graduate level sociology course on College Teaching. The instructor should split the class up into 3-6 groups depending on class size. The recommended group size is anywhere from five to ten students. This activity is recommended for a class...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Goal 1:Students will be able to explain marijuana policy in X state (the state where the college is located is recommended so that students can familiarize themselves with policies that directly apply to them), and will understand some of the criticisms
Assessment 1:
Assessment 1: This goal will be assessed through the students’ ability to construct policy and create effective arguments within the context of their debate and in their response papers. Students will use verbal, writing, and critical thinking skills.
Goal 2:
Students will be able to consider alternatives to current drug policy and will create new policy based on outside research and course lectures.
Assessment 2:
Assessment 2: This goal will be assessed through the students’ ability to construct and articulate a new drug policy and through their debate with other students defending the policy they create. Students will use verbal and critical thinking skills.

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TRAILS Activity Drug Policy and the War on Drugs.docx