Research Grants

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) is funding a small research grant program for Ohio State faculty and graduate students. DEPC grant program focuses on supporting academic research on issues related to the reform of criminal and civil laws prohibiting or regulating the use and distribution of traditionally illicit drugs. The Center supports scholarship that examines the impact of modern drug laws, policies and enforcement on personal freedoms and human well-being.


Deterrence or indifference?: Opioid users’ perceptions of anti-drug laws

Eric LaPlant, PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University

Since 1980, the number of drug poisoning deaths in the United States has increased nearly eight-fold, rising from 6,100 per year to 47,500 in 2014. In response to this ongoing public health crisis, policymakers have sought to limit the supply of illicit opioids by increasing law enforcement focus on the distribution and possession of the drugs while also seeking to reduce prescription opioid misuse by implementing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).

However, as overdose figures continue to rise, the capacity of each of these strategies to effect meaningful change remains a relative unknown. From a deterrence perspective, law makers might expect that harsher legal consequences and increased drug regulation would dissuade the illicit use of opioids. Alternatively, the increased threat of criminal justice contact or stricter drug regulations may not be effective deterrents of opioid use among addicts, whose chemical dependencies are likely to have compromised their ability to rationally analyze risk versus reward. The project seeks to study how opioid users perceive increased law enforcement efforts and legal changes and what, if any impact, these efforts have on their decision making in respect to drug use.

Award amount: $4520

Moral Panics, Race, and the Criminalization of Marijuana in the Early 20th Century

Michael Vuolo, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University

In this study, we apply a social science lens to the processes that led to the criminalization of marijuana in the early 20th century. Although examined within the historical literature on drugs, systematic empirical and statistical analyses remain underdeveloped. We will establish empirical evidence for the role that both race and perceptions of morality played in these efforts. As we are at a critical juncture in terms of criminal justice reform, our analysis provides context for how we got here, with a degree of scientific rigor that has not been applied previously. Understanding how race and false claims about marijuana’s effects contributed to the substance’s criminalization could inform the current debate regarding legalization. Exposing the roots of criminalization could demonstrate the weak scaffolding on which similar arguments in the modern era sit.

Award amount: $9600