The Truth About Marijuana

January 16, 2018

book cover

A dangerous gateway drug? A harmless recreational substance? Something in between? In their new book “Marijuana: Examining the Facts,” Karen T. Van Gundy and Michael S. Staunton look at the data that can help provide answers to these questions and more.

“It’s the sort of book I thought I would want to write, and it was time for us to have a book like this,” explains Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology, core faculty in justice studies and faculty fellow at UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy. “But we didn’t realize how timely it would be with the current state and national debates.”

ABC-CLIO, a publisher of reference and professional development resources, contacted Van Gundy about writing the book as a go-to source for information on the positive and negative impacts of marijuana. Van Gundy invited Staunton, a doctoral candidate in sociology who has also worked as a graduate research assistant at the Carsey School, to collaborate on the book with her.

“I like to collaborate with graduate students,” she says, adding. “I would not have been able to write this book without Michael.”

“And I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do this without Karen,” Staunton echoes.

Over many months, Van Gundy and Staunton pored over research from fields including medicine, criminology, psychology and sociology to examine claims made about marijuana. “We came at the topic with no agenda,” Van Gundy explains. “Our goal was to do the research into the medical and legal implications.”

The book focuses on key topics — patterns and trends, risks and benefits and policy considerations — and examines data on marijuana use and misuse trends in the country. “We organized the book around questions such as whether marijuana use is more widespread than ever before,” Van Gundy says, adding she and Staunton evaluated claims about medical risks, examined the history of marijuana legislation and looked at potential causes and consequences of marijuana use. “We came up with questions that could be taught in classes,” says Van Gundy, who is in the process of developing a course around the book. “It really gets at that critical thinking.”

“We wanted it to be readable without falling into the trap of oversimplifying. This was the challenge,” Staunton adds. “We did a fair bit of delving into the methods used to get specific statistics.”

And there were many discoveries in their research. For example, the patterns and trends they examined indicate marijuana use among adults has increased in the past decade, but marijuana misuse has not. “No matter what the laws are, we generally don’t see misuse fluctuate that much,” Van Gundy says, “and youth are using and misusing at lower rates.” For the purposes of the research, “use” refers to any self-reported use of marijuana during a period of time while “misuse” refers to self-reported symptoms that qualify respondents for marijuana use disorder, such as abuse or dependence.

“The myths, realities and perceptions have changed dramatically over time,” Staunton adds, but he notes there have always been misconceptions, ranging from the marijuana-makes-murderers theme of cult classic Reefer Madness in the 1930s to the perception that marijuana use brings a complete lack of motivation that was pervasive in the 1960s.

Van Gundy and Staunton’s research also indicates medical marijuana laws have not contributed to increases in the use of other psychoactive substances or opioid overdose rates, while a large number of studies show the therapeutic utility of the drug for certain kinds of conditions. As for the perception that marijuana is a gateway drug, Van Gundy notes the research does not support the idea that marijuana use causes misuse of more dangerous substances, with the indication that drug abuse typically has more to do with toxic environments.

With so many Americans having personal experience with marijuana either by trying it themselves or knowing people who have, “research means challenging personal assumptions,” Staunton says.

“It’s not about what you think. It’s about what the science says,” Van Gundy adds. “You can’t take just one story and say it is the end-all be-all.”

Learn more about “Marijuana: Examining the Facts.”

post source: article written by Jennifer Saunders in UNH Today


Sociology Undergrads Publish New Work

August 9, 2017

The 2017 edition of Perspectives, the UNH online undergraduate journal in sociology, is now available. A student editorial team worked with 11 fellow students to craft their papers into publishable articles for inclusion in this year’s edition.

Articles tackle topics such as racial bias, suicide and mental health, prescription stimulant use and how students’ paid jobs impact academic outcomes.

“We were overwhelmingly impressed and pleased at the high number of submissions we received from undergrads this year,” wrote the editors in their introduction. “It’s truly incredible that so many students went the extra mile to submit these papers, particularly those who worked tirelessly to complete their final year here at UNH prior to stepping out into the post-college world.”

Read the latest edition.


UNH Research Finds Majority of Americans Trust NASA on Climate Change

June 13, 2017

bar graph
Article Source: UNH Media Relations

Seventy-three percent of Americans trust science agencies like NASA for information about climate change, according to new research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. This includes a substantial majority within every political group.

In addition, a follow-up survey by the researchers found more than 80 percent of survey respondents – again including majorities in all political groups – favor continuing or expanding NASA’s Earth observations programs rather than cutting them.

“NASA and scientists in general know they face challenges in communicating the results, reasoning and importance of their work to the public,” the researchers said. “That is true now more than ever, as the scientific community interacts with a Trump administration that has been widely dismissive of science. As NASA scientists continue to carry out and communicate Earth observations, efforts to curtail their work will not find a sympathetic public, even among partisans.”

Original data was collected for the nationwide Polar, Environment and Sciences (POLES) survey conducted just after the election and for a statewide follow-up survey in May. Similarly, high trust in NASA climate science was found on a separate survey conducted last August. The full report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/eyes-earth

The research was conducted by Lawrence Hamilton, UNH professor of sociology and senior Carsey fellow; Jessica Brunacini, assistant director of the Polar Learning and Responding (PoLAR) Climate Change Education Partnership at the Earth Institute of Columbia University; and Stephanie Pfirman, Hirschorn professor of environmental sciences at Barnard College, Columbia University, and director of PoLAR.


COLA Faculty Awarded Professorships

March 30, 2017

photo of Murkland courtyard

Five faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts have received professorship awards, effective July 2017.

University professorships are supported through the generosity of donors and awarded to faculty members who have demonstrated the highest levels of excellence in teaching, scholarship (including the creative arts) and service over an extended period of time. The UNH provost awards professorships based on nominations from deans. Each professorship carries a 3-year term.

photo of Michele Dillon

Michele Dillon of the department of sociology will be the Class of 1944 Professor. The award recognizes an outstanding faculty member.

photo of Kurk Dorsey

Kurk Dorsey of the department of history will be the Class of 1938 Professor. Established by alumni from that class, this award recognizes excellence in teaching.

photo of Nora Draper

Nora Draper of the communication department will be the Roland H. O’Neal Professor. Established by Virginia O’Neal in memory of her husband, who was a member of the UNH Class of 1934, this award recognizes an outstanding untenured member of the teaching faculty.

Photo of Ken Johnson

Kenneth Johnson of the department of sociology will be the Class of 1940 Professor. This professorship, established in honor of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1940, recognizes a UNH faculty member for outstanding interdisciplinary teaching and research. Johnson is also a senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy.

photo of Mary Stampone

Mary Stampone of the department of geography will be the
 Class of 1941 Professor. Established with a gift from that class, this award recognizes outstanding teaching, research or public service, especially from an international perspective.


Innovator of the Week: Sharyn Potter

February 6, 2017

Sharyn Potter

Sharyn Potter, associate professor of sociology and executive director of research for Prevention Innovations Research Center, was recently featured as Innovator of the Week on the Live Free and Start website.

Live Free and Start is a joint initiative of the N.H. Governor’s Office, the Business Finance Authority and the Department of Resources and Economic Development aimed at creating jobs and making New Hampshire the place for innovative businesses to start, grow and succeed.

Potter was highlighted for her leadership in developing the innovative uSafeNH free smartphone application (app), which launched this past fall. The app was created to prevent sexual assault on New Hampshire campuses by providing victims and their allies with access to immediate assistance and resources. It is available to students at 26 of the state’s colleges and universities.

Several organizations partnered to create the uSafeNH app: Prevention Innovations Research Center, the STEM Discovery Lab at UNH Manchester, N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, NH Violence Against Women Campus Consortium, and N.H. SART Project at the Attorney General’s Office. The effort won a $25,000 prize from the N.H. Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurs’ Fund that helped the team complete development and testing of the app.

In August 2017, the uSafeUS app will launch, expanding the app’s reach to campuses up and down the East Coast. uSafeUS won third prize at the UNH Social Venture Innovation Challenge in December 2016. An anonymous donor matched the third prize money, enabling Potter and the team to market uSafeUS.

“The mobile app developed by faculty researchers and community practitioners from around the state is an example of how UNH continues to meet their land grant commitment by collaboratively developing solutions for societal problems,” says Potter.

Learn more at Live Free and Start website.


UNH Research Finds Trump Voters Stand Apart on Renewable Energy and Climate

February 2, 2017

key findings chart

Only 25 percent of those who say they voted for Donald Trump agree with the scientific consensus that human activities are changing Earth’s climate, according to new survey research at UNH. In contrast, large majorities of Clinton voters as well as third-party voters and nonvoters believe humans are causing climate change and want to see renewable energy development be a priority.

Climate change received little media attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, but recent surveys indicate that climate change and related energy issues are taken seriously by a growing majority of the public. Almost three-fourths of Americans surveyed after the election said that renewable energy should be a higher national priority than more drilling for oil and about two-thirds agree with the scientific consensus that humans are changing Earth’s climate.

“We saw a common theme when talking about what actions those surveyed wanted to see to reduce the risks of climate change,” said Larry Hamilton, professor of sociology and a senior Carsey fellow. “While renewable energy and lifestyle changes were popular, cap-and-trade and carbon tax were not. Overall, Trump voters are much less likely than other voter groups to support any action to reduce the risks of climate change.”

“Although public recognition and a sense of urgency lag behind science, they are measurably rising,” Hamilton added. “Given the outcome of the 2016 election and the belief patterns seen in these surveys, the willingness of the U.S. to respond is in question.”

The full report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/energy-climate-trump.


Liberal Arts Students Awarded Gilman International Scholarships

August 10, 2016
ulia Krank ’17 (left) and Patrick Sullivan ’17 (right)

Julia Krank ’17 (left) and Patrick Sullivan ’17 (right)

UNH College of Liberal Arts (COLA) students Julia Krank ’17, a dual psychology and justice studies major, and Patrick Sullivan ’17, a dual sociology and justice studies major, are two of approximately 850 American undergraduate students from 324 colleges and universities across the U.S. selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Both Krank and Sullivan will be studying abroad this fall semester through the UNH COLA-managed justice studies program in Budapest, Hungary, that allows students to deepen their knowledge of modern European justice systems. Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad or internship abroad costs. UNH student Kimberly Lavoie ’18, a wildlife and conservation biology major, also received a Gilman Scholarship.

UNH students can receive support on their Gilman applications from the Office of National Fellowships. For more information, contact Laura Perille.


%d bloggers like this: