2021-22 Marijuana and Drug Policy Grant Recipients
- Dr. Colleen Berryessa, Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University
This research proposes two experimental studies with nationally representative samples of the U.S. public to provide a robust body of work that examines why many members of the public continue to support punitive approaches to the sentencing of different drug offenses. Public opinion has been thought to permit the development and passage of criminal justice reform. Given that a notable number of Americans still support punitive drug sentencing, it is imperative to examine what may contribute to this continued support in order for future reform efforts to be successful. Aligning with the mission of the DEPC, this research will engage public conversations and sentiment on drug sentencing and its societal impacts, with the goal of providing data to inform the work of advocates and policymakers on how to get members of the public to “buy in” to drug sentencing reform and how to best promote public support for evidence-based sentencing laws in emerging reform efforts.
Award amount: $32,571
- Joseph Sabia, Ph.D., Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies (CHEPS) at San Diego State University
This project will examine how legal access to recreational marijuana impacted (1) racial disparities in arrests, and (2) adult psychiatric health, which has been linked to criminal activity (Frank and McGuire 2011). Studying the impact of recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) on these outcomes is important for at least two reasons. First, given that African Americans have been disproportionately harmed – both in the short and longer-run – by marijuana prohibition, understanding how RMLs have affected their arrests is important both from a distributional and social welfare perspective. Second, given that psychiatric problems are often an antecedent to (or co-occur with) crime, understanding the psychological effects of recreational marijuana legalization is important. This project has three specific aims:
- To explore the effects of state recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) on drug-related arrests (marijuana, cocaine & heroin, and synthetic opioids) among African American adults, and compare these effects to those obtained for White adults.
- To examine the impact of state RMLs on property crime, violent crime, and other, more minor crimes (delinquency) for African American adults and compare these effects to those obtained for Whites.
- To examine race-specific impacts of RMLs on psychiatric health, including serious mental health problems, suicide ideation, and completed suicides
Award amount: $15,000
- Katharine Neill Harris, Ph.D., Fellow in Drug Policy, Baker Institute of Public Policy, Rice University
- Christopher F. Kulesza, Ph.D., Research Analyst, Baker Institute of Public Policy, Rice University
To date, we know little about whether marijuana reform has any effect on enforcement of other drug laws. The precise impact of cannabis legalization on cannabis enforcement also remains unclear; while legalization is related to overall declines in cannabis-related arrests, these declines vary with age, race, and location. We propose to address this knowledge gap by examining the relationship between cannabis legalization and arrest trends for cannabis and other drugs in counties within legalized states. By accounting for state- and local-level variables that may moderate the impact of reform, this approach can improve our understanding of legalization and its implications for drug enforcement.
Award amount: $25,000
- Regina LaBelle, J.D., Director, Addiction & Public Policy Initiative and Distinguished Scholar, O'Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center & Director, Master of Science in Addiction Policy and Practice, Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
- Shelly Weizman, Associate Director, Addiction & Public Policy Initiative and Adjunct Professor of Law, Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, Georgetown Law Center
From 2000-2018, drug or alcohol-related deaths in jails increased by 600% (BJS 2021). Every such death is a policy failure that has civil rights implications as incarcerated persons in the U.S. have a constitutional right to reasonably necessary medical care (Gamble v. United States, 587 U.S. 139 (2019)). Because of these legal protections, deaths in jail custody can lead to costly civil litigation resulting in considerable monetary awards. To analyze these awards and the fact patterns correlated with them, the O’Neill Institute compiled a novel dataset of jury verdicts and settlement reports related to all deaths in jail custody from 2015-2020.
In this project proposal, we seek to (1) disaggregate the data related to deaths caused by withdrawal, drug overdose, or suicide due to withdrawal-related complications, and (2) based on the analysis, develop a set of proposals that translate this research into actionable policy recommendations for policymakers. Such recommendations will not only help jail administrators and government officials prevent future, costly litigation, but will also save lives. The policy proposals will be tailored to inform the work of regulators and policymakers seeking to promote evidence-based practices in jails, by translating the research findings to evidence-based policy recommendations. We anticipate that disaggregation and analysis of the data, as well as developing policy recommendations for dissemination can be completed before Fall 2022.
Award amount: $10,000
- Dr. Ellen Kurtzman, Associate Professor of Nursing, The George Washington University
Using three years of data (2017-2019) from four states (Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island—the selection of these states is explained in greater detail, below), we will pursue two specific purposes: (1) examine the prevalence of and trends in MUD among all patients who have “treat and release” visits to hospital emergency departments (purpose 1); (2) assess the relationship between states’ legalization of marijuana for recreational use and the prevalence of and trends in MUD in four states comparing the two that were legal for recreational marijuana to two that were illegal for recreational marijuana during the study period (purpose 2).
Award amount: $20,000
- Jordan M. Hyatt, J.D., Ph.D., Department of Criminology and Justice Studies, Center for Public Policy, Drexel University
- Nathan W. Link, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University – Camden
- Valerio Baćak, Ph.D., School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University – Newark
The impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana has been considered from a variety of policy-relevant perspectives, including those that emphasize health (Monte, Zane and Heard, 2015), moral (Pfeifer, 2011), and fiscal dimensions (Sanders 2015). The potential for an increase- or a decrease- in criminal and law enforcement activity is also vigorously debated, both as a concern for the public and as an element of racial justice (e.g., Firth et al., 2019). Legalization in large jurisdictions in the Pacific Northwest has provided the first robust, empirical data on how crime rates have been impacted. New Jersey, though dissimilar from many states that have previously legalized marijuana, has recently adopted legislation that will have a largely similar effect on drug policy. The proposed set of projects will seek to contemporaneously examine how this policy shift changes crime rates in three ways: (1) a descriptive analysis of arrests for marijuana possession across the state before and after legalization, (2) a comparison of how crime rates after legalization change in Camden (NJ) as compared to contiguous Philadelphia (PA), where recreational marijuana remains illegal, and (3) a survey of attitudes towards marijuana usage held by law enforcement and community members. These distinctive analyses will provide a foundation for an evidence-based assessment of the impact of New Jersey’s reform and a more relevant point of comparison for similarly-oriented jurisdictions.
Award amount: $42,000 (year two)
2020-21 Marijuana Grant Recipients
- Seung-hun Chung, post-doctoral researcher, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University
- Mark Partridge, Swank Professor of Rural-Urban Policy and professor, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University
This project aims to systematically investigate the impact of commercial marijuana legalization on the regional economy in the U.S. To be specific, it will analyze whether the commercial marijuana legalization changed employment growth, rent, wage and other important demographics and other important indicators and interpret the results in the framework of spatial equilibrium. In spatial equilibrium, the impact of any policy can be understood as the impact of local productivity and amenity (consumption opportunity). So, we will judge whether the legalization increased the productivity or amenity of regions. Then we discuss the possible mechanisms.
Award amount: $36,926
- Mitchell F. Crusto, professor, Loyola University (New Orleans) College of Law
Although public opinion has shifted towards regulating marijuana more like alcohol than other Schedule 1 drugs, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Therefore, despite changes in marijuana perception, nearly all jurisdictions punish minors in possession (“MIP”) of recreational marijuana in a punitive manner for the little harm done. Furthermore, the law’s treatment of MIPs as criminals for merely possessing and experimenting with marijuana results in the arrest and incarceration of juveniles and criminal records, which have negative direct and collateral impacts. Hence, this proposal examines what effects marijuana reforms might have on the criminal culpability of minors. Specifically, this project examines the statutory language of MIP of marijuana and cross-references that language to MIPs of alcohol. Once completed, these will be compiled into a database and categorized based on legal status: legalized, decriminalized, or illegal. Ultimately, the goal is to determine how marijuana reforms might impact punitive measures applied to minors. Once this database is complete, data will then be collected that looks at the actual arrest data for minors in specific case study jurisdictions. While some states may have excessively punitive MIP marijuana statutes in effect, the actual arrest data may show that these are rarely being utilized. Two cities from each jurisdiction that have (1) legalized; (2) decriminalized; and (3) where recreational marijuana remains illegal, will be surveyed over a three-year-period. The purpose is to see the practical effect of the statutory language, including any variants across jurisdictions. Based on the statutory analysis and arrest data, suggestions for addressing the possession of marijuana by minors moving forward will be provided.
Award amount: $8,900
- Katharine Neill Harris, PhD, Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug Policy at Baker Institute of Public Policy, Rice University
- Christopher F. Kulesza, PhD, Alfred C. Glassell, III, Research Analyst at Baker Institute of Public Policy, Rice University
For the drug war’s staunchest critics, ending marijuana prohibition is a critical first step to deconstructing a policy paradigm that not only fails to achieve a drug-free America, but fails at great cost, both in measurable dollars and in immeasurable harms inflicted on people who use drugs and on minority communities writ large. But despite significant advances in decriminalization and legalization efforts, marijuana remains an integral feature of the larger war on drugs. Nationwide there were over 500,000 cannabis-related arrests in 2019, accounting for 35 percent of all drug arrests that year. Black people remain more than three times as likely to be arrested for possession. The continuation of arrests and uneven enforcement vitiates the promise of these reforms to end cannabis prohibition and the systemic inequities it propagates. It also raises the question of whether prohibitionist policies and practices continue at other points in the justice system as well. Though fewer people are incarcerated solely for marijuana possession now than a decade ago, the justice system continues surveillance of people for marijuana use through such mechanisms as probation, diversionary programs, and mandated drug treatment. This study proposes to examine the extent to which surveillance of juveniles and adults who use marijuana continues in legalized and decriminalized states by analyzing referral sources to treatment for cannabis use.
Award amount: $35,955
- Jordan M. Hyatt, JD, PhD, associate professor, Department of Criminology and Justice Studies Center for Public Policy, Drexel University
- Nathan W. Link, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice,Rutgers University – Camden
- Valerio Baćak, PhD, assistant professor, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University – Newark
The impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana has been considered from a variety of policy-relevant perspectives, including those that emphasize health, moral, and fiscal dimensions. The potential for an increase, or a decrease, in criminal and law enforcement activity is also vigorously debated, both as a concern for the public and as an element of racial justice. Legalization in large jurisdictions in the Pacific Northwest has provided the first robust, empirical data on how crime rates have been impacted. New Jersey, though dissimilar from many states that have previously legalized marijuana, has recently adopted legislation that will have a largely similar effect on drug policy. The proposed set of projects will seek to contemporaneously examine how this policy shift changes crime rates in three ways: (1) a descriptive analysis of arrests for marijuana possession across the state before and after legalization, (2) a comparison of how crime rates after legalization change in Camden (NJ) as compared to contiguous Philadelphia (PA), where recreational marijuana remains illegal, and (3) a survey of attitudes towards marijuana usage held by law enforcement and community members. These distinctive analyses will provide a foundation for an evidence-based assessment of the impact of New Jersey’s reform and a more relevant point of comparison for similarly-oriented jurisdictions.
Award amount: $84,000 over two years
2020-21 Drug Policy Grant Recipients
- Lauren Jones, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Human Science and John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
This project aims to systematically collect, codify and describe the state sobriety checkpoint laws for each year between 1980 to 2020. The data collected will be used in later projects to link it with existing national administrative data to document the effectiveness of the laws in reducing alcohol- and drug-related traffic crashes and fatalities at the national scale and to document the effect of the laws on racialized arrests for driving under the influence, and other crimes.
Award amount: $9,795
- Russell S. Hassan, associate professor, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University Daniel Baker, postdoctoral scholar, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
Laws and criminal justice processes aimed at regulating the use of drugs in the United States have contributed to the mass incarceration of people and racial inequities throughout the criminal justice system. This project aims to examine the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the early stages of drug prosecution and to what extent they contribute to the racial disparities in drug cases. Understanding where inequity occurs across multiple stages of case processing will allow us to design policy changes that reduce inequities in the processing of drug cases.
Award amount: $9,732
- Miyuki Fukushima Tedor, associate professor, Department of Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology, Cleveland State University
- Patricia Stoddard-Dare, professor, School of Social Work, Cleveland State University
- Ilya Yaroslavsky, associate professor, Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University
- James Chriss, Professor, Department of Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology, Cleveland State University
A previous needs assessment study in the fall of 2017 found that substance users and their family members are often left on their own to look up treatment facilities and must engage in a time-consuming, and often fruitless, task of contacting each provider agency in the hope that one of them can offer an assessment and appropriate treatment immediately. This project is a follow-up needs assessment study to focus specifically on examining the needs of drug courts and their participants to determine how drughelp.care could help bring together disparate agencies, including bridging the coordination between drug courts, substance use treatment providers, and other public agencies like homeless shelters.
Award amount: $8,275
- Alan K Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University
- Adam Levin, MD, PGY-1 Psychiatry Resident, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University
- Paul Nagib, BS, Medical Student, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University
The American Psychiatric Association has a long history of advocating for evidence-based policy changes related to psychoactive drugs. Given this precedent, addressing the contradictions in the current drug schedule represents an ideal area of advocacy for psychiatrists. However, no prior studies have directly explored psychiatrists’ attitudes about drug scheduling and the effects of a drug’s schedule on their beliefs about drug harms, benefits, or clinical care. This project aims to conduct a survey of psychiatrists to: 1) examine whether psychiatrists’ perceptions about the acceptability, potential harms and therapeutic benefits of different psychoactive drugs differ as a function of the drug's schedule in the US, and 2) explore perspectives about the impact of drug policies on psychiatry training and psychiatrists’ attitudes/beliefs about psychoactive drugs. Elucidating psychiatrists’ perceptions and attitudes in these two areas would represent a critical first step in building consensus among psychiatrists towards advocating for a more coherent and scientifically grounded drug policy.
Award amount: $6,000
- Lee Hannah, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wright State University
Medical cannabis laws have now been adopted by 35 states and the District of Columbia. Yet the policies vary significantly and some policies have been viewed as more effective than others. This research project aims to take a deeper look at the implementation of medical marijuana programs in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Specifically, the project will focus on understanding how the states’ differing institutional structures, political control of key institutions, and approaches to policy design shaped differences in implementation outcomes. The research aims to better understand the intra-state dynamics of implementation and clarify how program design affects patient access.
Award amount: $5,000
- Yvette R. Harris, PhD, professor of psychology and director, Center for the Study and Support of Children and Families of the Incarcerated, Department of Psychology, Miami University
- Cricket Meehan, PhD, director, Center for School-Based Mental Health Programs and associate director, Center for the Study and Support of Children and Families of the Incarcerated, Department of Psychology, Miami University
The research project investigates the impact of drug laws on the ”lived experiences” of African American mothers incarcerated in jails or who have been previously incarcerated in jails, their children and families. Specifically, the researchers will focus on identifying the unique parenting and health challenges of currently jailed mothers and previously jailed African American mothers, the availability and assessment of available social support networks and pre-release planning and post-jail support, assessing the quality of the relationship between mothers and caregivers and the caregivers’ evaluation of the children’s academic and social-emotional functioning when the mother was jailed and when the mother was released.
Award amount: $2,250
2019–20 Drug Policy Grant Recipients
- Andrea M. Headley, PhD, Georgetown University
- Christa Remington, PhD, University of South Florida
- Kaila Witkowski, Florida International University
- Santina Contreras, PhD, University of Southern California
- N. Emel Ganapati, PhD, Florida International University
For the last decade, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), 911 emergency dispatchers, and others have played an important role in responding to the opioid epidemic. Whether responding to overdose cases or performing drug busts, these professionals have been on the front lines of this epidemic ensuring the safety, health and well-being of the public. Recent changes in policy have shifted some first-responder roles (especially the police officers) away from punishment and enforcement toward health and prevention, signaling a shift away from criminalization toward treatment – which is the unique intersection where these diverse first responders connect. It also signifies a potential strain in perceived and actual roles and responsibilities as first responders are asked to take on extra burdens when responding to calls (i.e. administering Narcan). In the midst of grappling with these organizational and professional shifts related to the opioid epidemic, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. During this current health crisis, first responders have been exclusively called upon to enforce state and local social distancing requirements as well as to promote public health; again, requiring that first responders be flexible and adaptive in their roles and responsibilities. While the presence of one epidemic strains resources, the presence of two requires that agencies make critical decisions that impact how first responders deal with and respond to both epidemics. Extant research, though limited, shows that frontline workers experience work-related psychosocial challenges, including trauma and stress, in higher magnitudes compared to other occupations due to the day-to-day demands of the job.
Yet, there is relatively little scholarly attention paid to the impact of public health emergencies on first responders and their work, let alone when diverse epidemics collide and present different (and potentially even conflicting) work-related demands. Understanding these impacts is essential in order to inform how first response agencies can mitigate potential adverse effects on their workers, build workforce resilience in the short- and long-term, and more effectively respond to both opioid abuse and other future health epidemics. The proposed research focuses on these impacts, specifically: (1) the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the response to the opioid epidemic; (2) changes in first responders’ perceived and actual work and responsibilities as a result of responding to two colliding epidemics; and, (2) the impact on first responders’ coping mechanisms including substance use and abuse as well as burnout and stress.
Award amount: $22,000
- Alan K. Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor and Yitong Xin, MBA, MSW, PhD candidate, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University
Approximately 21 million people have a substance use disorder (SUD) in the United States (US), but only 11% of these individuals will receive treatment. National drug control policies prohibiting possession of most drugs inhibit the personal freedoms of people who consume illegal substances and create a situation in which most SUD treatment professionals have been unable/unwilling to accommodate SUD clients who want to continue but reduce their use of illegal substances. This lack of support for non-abstinence goals is contrary to scientific evidence showing that when people reduce/moderate use they can achieve improvements in functioning.
Given that social workers comprise a large proportion of providers in the SUD treatment field, they are in prime positions to provide non-abstinence interventions and to advocate for changes in SUD treatment agencies’ practices and national/local drug policies. However, it is unclear to what extent social workers’ training, and their attitudes and beliefs about drug use, have been affected by national drug policies and whether their beliefs have influenced their willingness to provide non-abstinence interventions or advocate for changes to these policies. This project aims to use an internet-based survey to gain a better understanding of the attitudes and beliefs among social workers to help inform educational and training needs in the social work profession and help support short- and long-term changes in treatment settings. Data from this study will be used as pilot data for a larger grant submission that aims to develop a training/education intervention to help social workers understand the influence of national drug policies on clinical practices and to address this influence in learning the skills needed to use non-abstinence interventions in SUD treatment.
Award amount: $10,000
- Laura Frizzell, PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual individuals to misuse illicit substances, including prescription pain relievers such as opiates. This leads to higher rates of substance use disorders than heterosexual individuals, as well as more severe disorders. In turn, LGB individuals have increased rates of risky sexual practices, exposure to HIV/AIDS, and morbidity and mortality. Further, LGB individuals are incarcerated at more than three times the rate of the general adult U.S. population, with many of these individuals convicted of drug crimes. In addition to the direct health consequences of illicit substance misuse, there is an additional array of negative consequences associated with arrest and incarceration, including housing instability, further negative health outcomes, and family disruption. Despite the host of negative outcomes, virtually no research has examined the consequences of LGB drug-related incarceration. While researchers have paid more attention to substance misuse among LGB individuals, the majority of this research is focused on individual-level covariates and much of it serves to pathologize LGB drug users. As a response, this project has three primary aims. (1) First, this project will identify structural causes of LGB drug misuse. Specifically, it will examine how the extent of (a) state-level legal protections for and (b) social acceptance of LGB individuals impacts their likelihood to use and sell illicit substances. (2) Second, this project will quantify the extent of disparities in drug-related arrests of LGB individuals. (3) Third, this project will identify the consequences of drug enforcement which are exacerbated or unique to LGB individuals.
Award amount: $9,347
- Eric LaPlant, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University
In 2016, opioid-related overdose deaths accounted for over two-thirds of all poisonings in the United States, representing the largest share of deaths attributed to the drugs in our country’s history. While the public health impact of the opioid epidemic is well-known, the economic ramifications are also substantial. It has been estimated that the annual value of the lives lost to opioid deaths is $504 billion, representing 2.8 percent of our GDP. Further, the increase in opioid-related policing and incarceration places substantial burden on criminal justice entities that are already under pressure to reduce spending. In response to this far-reaching issue, policymakers have sought to limit illicit opioid use in hopes of reducing the number of opioid overdose deaths. However, research has done little to investigate the underlying factors influencing continual increases in overdose deaths, limiting policymakers’ ability to develop targeted solutions capable of effecting change. Criminology theory has demonstrated the importance of economic factors, such as employment, inequality, and perceptions of success, as they relate to the likelihood of criminal activity; however, research has yet to utilize these theoretical frameworks to study the opioid epidemic. In this study, I draw on these concepts to formulate hypotheses that examine how changing economic conditions, especially signals of economic decline, have influenced counties’ opioid overdose death rates.
Award amount: $9,000
2018–19 Drug Policy Grant Recipients
- 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: $4,520
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: $9,600