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


GeoBowl Champs

October 25, 2017
photo of student team

Pictured left to right: Evan Collins ’18, Stephen Geis ’20, Drew Guilbault ’18, Cara Buccini ’18 (courtesy photo)

A team of UNH geography students won the World Geography Bowl contest at the annual conference of The New England-St. Lawrence Valley Geographical Society (NESTVAL), which is a regional division of the Association of American Geographers (AAG). This year’s conference was held at Central Connecticut State University.

Six teams, comprised of 4 students each, competed in the Bowl this year — two each from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The UNH team members were Cara Buccini ‘18, Evan Collins ‘18, Stephen Geis ‘20 and Drew Guilbault ‘18. Jennifer Brewer, associate professor of geography, was the organizer.

UNH students have taken part in this competition for the last ten years, placing second twice, but this is the first time the UNH team has won.

The highest scoring students from all of the teams are invited to join a NESTVAL team to compete against the other AAG regions at the national conference in the spring. Collins and Buccini both qualified based on points scored. Collins also qualified last year and attended the national competition in Boston.

“We are one of the smaller geography programs in the region, and, as undergraduate-only department, it is really exciting to get our first Geography Bowl win,” said Mary Stampone, chair and Class of 1941 Associate Professor of Geography.

“We did well because each team member had a complementary knowledge base in a geographic subfield — human rights, international, remote sensing, environmental, etc.,” said Buccini. “So among all of us, we made a strong team, whereas no single one of us knew all the answers.”

The World Geography Bowl is intended to provide fun and friendly academic competition among college and university students based on geographic fundamentals and concepts.


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.


Career Minded

May 16, 2017

photo of Carrington Cazeau

Talk about plum assignments: When Boston native Carrington Cazeau ’17 went to Washington, D.C., for an internship with the U.S. Marshals Service, he was one of only four assigned to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. “Not many people get to work there,” says Cazeau, who is planning a career in federal law enforcement. With majors in psychology and justice studies, he’ll graduate from the UNH College of Liberal Arts with a B.A. degree later this month.

Watch the video of Carrington’s journey:

Written by UNH Communications and Public Affairs  |  Photographer: Jeremy Gasowski  |  Videographer: Scott Ripley


Scholarships Awarded for Study Abroad in Italy

May 4, 2017
Allison Hoey

Allison Hoey

Two students have received $4,000 scholarships from the COLA Fund for Study in Italy that will enable them to study abroad in programs of their choice in Italy.

Allison Hoey of Pelham, N.H., has always had a passion and interest in painting, but once she discovered art history, she realized that knowledge of history and context can have a big influence on an artist’s work. Currently a studio art major, she’s decided to pursue both a B.F.A. in painting and an art history major. Next she wants to experience art and its history first-hand in Italy. Hoey plans to study abroad in the spring 2018 semester and is currently considering her options, trying to decide among two institutions in Florence and one in Verona.

“Being surrounded by the work of influential artists will inspire my own work throughout the rest of my undergraduate career and beyond,” says Hoey.

History major Kelly Sheehan of Brockton, Mass., has loved history for as long as she can remember. It was in a history class in high school that she learned about the Renaissance, from whence sprang her second love: Italy and all things Italian. Now in her sixth semester of Italian at UNH, she couldn’t be happier:  except maybe if she were actually in Italy. Thanks to this scholarship, Sheehan will achieve that goal. She will attend the UNH-managed program on nutrition and culture in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, in summer 2017.

“To be able to stand and look at the things I have spent so long studying and learning about is surreal to me,” says Sheehan. “…I will be able to see firsthand some of the amazing monuments, statues and museums I have always dreamt of.”

The COLA Fund for Study in Italy supports UNH COLA students with a demonstrated interest in art, art history and Italian language who plan to study abroad in Italy. Awards are made to one or more students each spring. The Fund is administered by the COLA Center for Study Abroad and made possible through the generosity of a donor.


International Sculpture Day

April 24, 2017
photo of sculpture

Level Growth
glazed stoneware
Griffin Sinclair-Wingate

Students in Don Williams’ ceramics workshop contributed sculptures to the International Sculpture Day Exhibition at Bedrock Gardens in Lee, N.H. The pieces are on display alongside works by ten New Hampshire sculptors and set amid Bedrock Garden’s landscaped gardens, fields and woods. The exhibit opened on April 23 and runs through May 7, 2017. More information can be found at bedrockgardens.org.

“Making art for a class assignment is a very different experience than making art for a public exhibition,” says Williams. “Students taking part in this exhibition realized first-hand what these differences are while gaining real life experience. They became more invested in the project knowing their pieces would be judged by other participating professional artists and the public. Deadlines had to be met. Pieces required titles, prices, and artist statements.”

Williams and the students spent two days installing the sculptures in a steady forty-degree drizzle. But the sun shone for the opening, which over two hundred people attended.

International Sculpture Day is an event held worldwide to promote the creation and understanding of sculpture and its contribution to society. Hundreds of artists, organizations and institutions in over 20 countries celebrated the day this year.


2017 Trout Scholars Named

April 19, 2017
photos of Trout scholars

from left to right: Camden Warren, Sierra Mullin, Andrew Jablonski

Three students have been awarded B. Thomas Trout scholarships to study abroad this year. Andrew Jablonski and Camden Warren were each awarded $2,500 to study in Dijon, France, for the 2017 fall semester. Sierra Mullin was awarded $1,000 to study in the 6-week Costa Rica program in summer 2017.

A junior from Newmarket, N.H., Jablonski is pursuing French, German and international affairs majors. French has been his passion since seventh grade, says Jablonski, who has been so dedicated to the language that he even took two advanced French courses at UNH while still a senior in high school. The leg up in coursework is part of what’s allowed him to fit three majors into his schedule.

“I am honored to represent the Trout Scholarship while in France, standing for what he [B. Thomas Trout] believed in about international studies as being an important part of a college career,” says Jablonski, “and also allowing me to reflect and further my understanding of the complications of the world, and how we can improve them.”

This is Jablonski’s second time winning the Trout Scholarship. Last year, the award helped him study in Berlin, Germany.

Warren is a junior history and international affairs dual major from Alton, N.H. His career ambition is to work with people of different nationalities and backgrounds both here in the U.S. and abroad. In order to achieve this goal, he’s convinced he has to supplement his classroom learning with experience in a foreign country.

“I have had the chance in the past to travel to historical sites here in the United States and I can confidently say that going to the places where momentous events in history occurred gives a much deeper and complete understanding not only for what happened there, but how those events have shaped and continue to shape our world today,” says Warren.

Warren has also received the Foley Jackson Award from UNH’s Center for International Education and Global Engagement. The scholarship will further support his Dijon study.

Mullin, a freshman Spanish major from Nashua, N.H., hopes her experience in Costa Rica will hone her cultural and language skills, providing a “jump-start” to her academic career and, eventually, her job prospects. Plus the extra credits she’ll earn on the program may even allow her to fit in a second major before she graduates, she says.

“Bettering my Spanish will help me get closer to achieving a personal goal of becoming fluent in Spanish,” says Mullin, who also looks forward to expanding her worldview through connecting with other U.S. students, Costa Rican students, and her host family.

The late B. Thomas Trout was a professor of political science and an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts. Throughout his career, Professor Trout actively and tirelessly promoted international studies as a vital part of the college curriculum. He was equally dedicated to the development of study abroad programs for undergraduates, convinced that expanding the range of international study opportunities for American college students was integral to their understanding of a complicated world.

In Professor Trout’s honor, the College of Liberal Arts established the B. Thomas Trout Scholars Fund, which supports academically outstanding College of Liberal Arts undergraduates, allowing them to participate in a UNH-managed study abroad program in the College.


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