By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler  recently led a team of authors that published an article in the Journal of Community Psychology as part of a five-year study  funded by a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
The article, co-authored by Social Welfare student Nancy Kepple, Urban Planning student Revel Sims and Scott E. Martin of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, was titled “Evaluating Medical Marijuana Dispensary Policies: Spatial Methods for the Study of Environmental-Based Interventions.” The paper examined several current “policy and land use environmental interventions” that seek to mitigate detrimental effects associated with the influx of medical marijuana dispensaries across California.
Focusing specifically on Los Angeles and Sacramento, Freisthler and her co-authors investigated the impact of dispensary regulations on the prevalence of crime and marijuana use, how types of medical marijuana users cluster within communities, and whether clustering is increased in locations with numerous dispensaries.
Preliminary data from the research indicate that certain regulatory measures -- such as security cameras, the presence of a guard, and the posting of signs requiring a prescription card -- may indeed be effective in reducing crime within the immediate vicinity of a marijuana dispensary.
Dr. Freisthler’s expertise lies in the application of population-based geospatial research methods to the exploration of relationships between drug distribution systems, alcohol and drug abuse, and child abuse and neglect. She employs geographic information systems, spatial statistics and spatial econometrics to understand how social problems vary across geographic areas, identify areas in a community prone to developing social problems with an understanding of neighborhood ecologies, and examine how the location of social services may further affect such developments.
Friesthler received her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley, and she is currently the principal investigator of the UCLA Medical Marijuana Research Team.