Regulating marijuana delivery services could help address recreational use New study from Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler surveyed almost 9,000 users in 50 California cities.

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Banning medical marijuana dispensaries or regulating their number and density in a given city may not be sufficient to lower marijuana use if delivery services open in their place, according to UCLA research.

The new study, led by UCLA social welfare professor Bridget Freisthler and co-authored by Paul Gruenewald of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, compares self-reported marijuana use by almost 9,000 people in 50 California cities where medical marijuana is available through storefront dispensaries and delivery services. The study’s authors say the results can help lawmakers understand how regulatory practices affect marijuana use across cities.

California allows marijuana use for medicinal purposes but gives regulatory control of dispensaries to local jurisdictions. But, Freisthler said, despite heightened interest from public health researchers and an emerging understanding of statewide policies, little is known about how access to marijuana through dispensaries corresponds to patterns of use on a city-by-city basis — and whether marijuana legalization is actually leading to greater use.

A key finding from the study was that people in cities with greater availability of medical marijuana — as measured by the density of dispensaries and delivery services — reported more current marijuana use and more frequent use. In addition, the number of storefront dispensaries in a community was more closely related to frequency of marijuana use than the availability of delivery services was.

“The relationship between the physical availability of marijuana and the number of medical and recreational users could suggest a supply-and-demand relationship in which dispensaries and delivery services are opening in locations with higher demand,” said Freisthler, a faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“In terms of future policy, this could mean that banning storefront dispensaries or regulating the number and density of dispensaries may not be sufficient ways to reduce marijuana use if delivery services open in their place,” she said. “The implication is that regulating delivery services needs to occur along with the regulation of storefront dispensaries.”

Researchers also found that 18- to 29-year-olds were more likely to use marijuana currently and frequently than any other age group, which suggests that that concerns about young people’s access to marijuana may be warranted.

The study was published Sept. 2 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. It was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Mark Kleiman Named One of the Politico 50 The Public Policy professor is recognized by Politico Magazine as an important thinker and doer in American politics.

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Public Policy professor Mark Kleiman has been named one of Politico Magazine’s “Politico 50,” which is the political magazine’s list of the most interesting “thinkers, doers and dreamers who really matter in this age of gridlock and dysfunction.”

Accompanying Kleiman on the list are prominent political, academic and religious figures such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Pope Francis and presidential advisor John Podesta. Politico calls Kleiman “an academic with real-world punch” for his work as one of the country’s most prominent drug policy experts.

“Kleiman, 63, a longtime legalization advocate and one of the country’s most prominent drug policy experts, has always looked ahead to the post- prohibition landscape even while the drug war was in full swing…If America’s legal experiments with weed survive, it may be because Kleiman had the good sense to minimize its harmful effects.”

Read more about Kleiman’s work and see what his favorite books of the year are here.

You can see the full list of Politico 50 here and follow along on social media with #POLITICO50.

The Politico 50 were also surveyed about American politics, including the future of Obamacare and the Tea Party, the presidential campaign and Washington and the world. Go here to see their responses.

 

MSW Students Create Website for Social Workers Nick Thomas and Justin Kumar hope their website will inspire and inform.

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The social work community has a new online resource thanks to second year UCLA Luskin Social Welfare students Nick Thomas and Justin Kumar.

Dubbed a “centralized database for all things social work,” Thomas’ and Kumar’s new website, Social Work Stories, includes stories about outstanding Social Welfare students and professionals, offers a number of online news sources specifically for social workers, has a helpful page detailing various jobs students can have with a social welfare degree, and offers career and school resources.

“We decided to create this website because we were truly inspired by the stories of the MSW students in our cohort,” Thomas and Kumar said. “Each one had a unique and intriguing story for deciding to pursue an MSW, and irrespective of their background, each individual we talked to shared a common goal – to help others.”

The MSW duo also said they created the website because they want to change the perception of social workers.

“It seemed that, either due to media portrayals or other factors, social workers were largely considered individuals who worked for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and would try to separate families from their children,” they said. “We found through our program that the vast majority of social workers did not want to work for Child Protective Services (CPS) or DCFS, and those that did care much more about family reunification than separation.”

Kumar and Thomas hope social work professionals, people interested in the field of social work, and individuals looking for social work services will come to use the site. The hope is that the website will give social workers a place to show their passion for the field and the lasting impact they aim to have. This, they said, can help attract new people to the field, change negative perceptions about social work and social workers, and be a centralized database for users to easily find information about schools, resources, and services – something Kumar and Thomas said currently takes a lot of searching as content is spread across various webpages and other types of media.

Social Work Stories currently features the stories of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare professors Laura Alongi and Ian Holloway, MSW alumnus Stephen Cheung, and numerous MSW students. Thomas and Kumar hope to widen their scope to include the stories of faculty and students from other schools as well.

“We are definitely proud of the incredible UCLA MSWs and PhDs we have on the website, but our goal is to expand to other schools and areas to become a nationwide media outlet for social workers,” they said. “The field is so broad and full of amazing stories that it would be impossible to limit ourselves to one program or region, so we will feature any social worker or social work student who would like to be featured.”

The website is updated daily with new stories, news, and resources. The pair plan to continue the website after they graduate.

To learn more about Social Work Stories, go to Social Work Stories

 

Madeline Brozen Awarded Scholarship to Research Street Design The Lewis Center Program Director is winner of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship.

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UCLA Luskin Research Scholar Madeline Brozen has been awarded the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship, created to help recipients contribute to the advancement of sustainable transport and urban mobility.

Brozen, who is program director of the Lewis Center’s Complete Street’s Initiative, is one of two scholarship recipients through sustainable transport program EMBARQ. The scholarship was created in honor of Dr. Leon J. Schipper, co-founder of EMABARQ and a recognized researcher who contributed to the fields of sustainable transport and energy efficiency.

“After learning I was selected as a Schipper scholar, I was shocked and delighted,” Brozen said in an announcement released by EMBARQ today. Her research will “challenge the way streets are currently evaluated, examining the Level of Service (LOS) measure for assessing street performance.” Brozen will focus on infrastructure that moves away from a car-oriented design to one that supports walking and bicycling.

You can learn more about Brozen’s research through this Q&A published on EMBARQ’s TheCityFix.

Brozen was selected as an awardee out of a pool of 82 applicants from 26 countries. She will present her findings at the Transforming Transportation 2015 conference, co-organized by EMBARQ and the World Bank.

Go here to read more about the award on EMBARQ’s announcement.

 

Paul Ong’s Research Reveals Los Angeles’ Rent Burden Crisis

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Urban Planning professor Paul Ong’s latest research on the L.A. housing market has been highlighted in the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate’s monthly analyses of crucial real estate and economic issues.

The article, which is a condensed review of Ong’s paper titled “Impacts of the Widening Divide: Los Angeles at the Forefront of the Rent Burden Crisis,” delivers troubling news about the L.A. rental market – that it is the most unaffordable in the country and is the metro area with the largest share of renters vs. homeowners.

Ong writes:

“This affordability crisis has deep roots. Los Angeles has been a majority renter city since 1970. And the disparity between renters and owners reflects an economic divide that has widened over decades.

Our studies show severe housing burden among poor renters has existed since 1970, and that during periods of increasing inequality the burden has grown even more severe. Vacancy rates have risen only slightly – even dipping at times when housing burden has increased. And renters are paying more for the same quality housing, suggesting that neither market forces nor changing housing quality fully explain the increasing rents.

Altogether, the data show that the solution to this long-term crisis is to address its root causes – low incomes and high rents – by increasing both renter earnings and affordable housing.”

You can read the full article here.

Ong and his co-authors Silvia Jimenez and Rosalie Ray also contributed an op-ed piece that was published in the Los Angeles Business Journal (subscription required).

Public Policy Alumna Featured in Documentary Series Snejana Daily (MPP '12) describes her experience traveling the globe for "Operation Change" airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Tune in to the Oprah Winfrey Network on Monday nights and you might see Public Policy alumna Snejana Daily (MPP ’12) building a house in post-earthquake Haiti, working on a community center in a war-torn Colombia neighborhood, or digging water wells in a Tanzanian village – all part of a new show called “Operation Change.”

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The 10-part series, which airs on OWN, follows the founders of the Starkey Hearing Foundation – Bill and Tani Austin and their son Steven Sawalich – as they travel to the world’s most impoverished countries to give people hearing aids and partner with local organizations to empower and improve communities around the world. The documentary series tells the stories of people facing challenges across the globe, and highlights the work of agencies hoping to make a difference. Along with the Austins and Sawalich are two volunteers who assist with the projects – Daily is one of them.

For Daily, participating in the show, which took her to 13 countries over the course of a year, meant the possibility of delaying graduation from her policy program. But it also meant fulfilling a life purpose.

“There was an email sent out — I’m assuming to the whole cohort — and the subject line was ‘Amazing opportunity but may delay graduation,’” Daily recalled. “I was probably the only crazy person who opened it, but I knew this was everything I ever wanted to do. I was determined to get this position and to graduate on time.”

In the email were details of an open casting call for a show that would send chosen participants to different countries to help fit hearing aids and partner with local non-profits. The show was hatched by the Starkey Hearing Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, which challenged Starkey to expand their pledge to give 100,000 hearing aids per year around the world, to something that could have greater visibility and impact.

After several rounds of rigorous auditions and interviews, Daily was picked to be part of the show. Her official title was “Starkey Volunteer,” but her role was to complete projects in each country, interface with the community, research the places, learn what it’s like to live in those places, and then tell that story on camera.

“They were looking for people who were passionate about making a difference in the world, inspired by other cultures, eager to learn about other places and people, and then be able to speak to the issues whether cultural or political,” Daily explained, adding that she was also an attractive candidate because she was a MPP student specializing in non-profit organizations.

Daily said the show was the perfect opportunity to take everything that she was learning in the classroom and see it in action. Professor Robert Jensen’s statistics class that covered studies on health in India came alive as Daily touched down in India and interfaced with displaced children. An interesting talk at the Luskin School of Public Affairs on the dynamics of Haiti after the earthquake became reality as she helped build a home in Jacmel, Haiti. Conversely, her education and work experience gave her the skills to be an effective member of the Starkey team with her ability to do research and understand what elements of a non-profit can work in different settings. More importantly, the year-long commitment gave Daily the opportunity she was looking for – to make an impact on the world.

Daily always knew that she wanted to do work that was “people-focused,” but it wasn’t until her husband, UCLA alumnus Lieutenant Mark Daily, passed away while on active duty in Iraq in 2007 that she decided she wanted to do work overseas. Daily was 21 years old at the time.

“While I was working at a Los Angeles-based non-profit my husband was deployed and passed away, and at that particular moment in time, I really got to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life,” Daily said. “When you’re faced with your own mortality at such an early age, it makes things have a little more gravity. And I felt like I was still alive and he was such an epic human being that I had a responsibility to carry out his legacy as well as live for the both of us.”

It was then that Daily committed to living without any barriers. After spending time recovering from the tragedy, she began looking for organizations that would send her abroad – to live without boundaries and fears and to “make her life count.” She scoured the Internet for opportunities. She considered the Peace Corps. She enrolled in the UCLA public policy program, and then this project presented itself.

The first episode of Operation Change, which aired last month, opened on Haiti and followed the struggle of two Haitian families. Episodes in Israel and Palestine, Tanzania, Colombia and Lebanon have aired since.

Daily’s favorite experience was in Sevisa, Papua New Guinea, where she assisted in rebuilding a village destroyed by tribal warfare, built underground latrines, planted trees that were burnt down by a warring tribe, and helped harvest and sell coffee beans as part of assistance to a small business. She was also able to make a connection with the villagers that Daily said was extremely precious.

“The people were so open and welcoming and they have a tradition of holding hands if they respect you, so everywhere I went someone would walk with me and hold my hand. It was really beautiful,” Daily said.

In addition, the village was made up of mostly women and children, because many of the men had been killed as a result of 15 years of tribal warfare with a neighboring tribe.

“It was incredible to see a group of strong women step up to become community leaders and rebuild their lives in such a powerful way,” Daily said. “And, obviously, the other thing that we connected on was the idea that people all over the world experience the same pain. When you go through the tragedy of losing somebody, there’s just that unspoken understanding and connection and I felt like they just got it.”

Daily said the experience was “life changing,” and since her time on the show ended she has been working as a freelance producer on a genre of projects that she calls “socially conscious media.”

Her vision is to use technology and media to create a better world through educating people on how to support others. Her last project with a Nigerian filmmaker told the story of an activist speaking out against the effects of oil trade policy in Nigeria. In addition to organizing screenings of the film on college campuses and in Washington, Daily worked with lobbyist to firm up support for a resolution to acknowledge the effects of the oil trade in Nigeria to help move cleanup in a better direction.

“My strength is connecting the dots and telling the human story,” Daily said. “You can shift the dynamic of policy by working directly within the structure but you also need the support of people. Media raises awareness, catalyzes action, and works in support of policy change.”

Daily said she’s been enjoying reliving her experiences as the show, which was filmed two years ago, airs each week.

“There are definitely parts that I get to relive and it’s amazing having such an incredible, life-changing experience encapsulated,” she said. “I now have it forever to show my grandkids and prove that I was cool once.

You can catch up on past episodes by going to www.operationchange.com/. Blog posts written by Daily also accompany each online episode. New episodes air on Mondays at 10/9 central. There will be a special two-episode night of Operation Change on August 4. You can also follow along on social media by using #operationchange.

And, for the record, Snejana was able to graduate on schedule while participating in this amazing life journey, thanks to a lot of communication, extra effort and some flexibility from her UCLA Luskin professors.

UCLA Pays Tribute to Andrea Rich Professor Andrea Rich dies at 71.

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The UCLA community is remembering longtime professor and administrator Andrea Rich, who passed away July 28.

Rich played a key role in the university’s 1994 Professional Schools Restructuring Initiative, which led to the creation of the Department of Public Policy and the unit that would become the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“She was a person of great integrity, strength, leadership and resilience,” founding dean Archie Kleingartner told the UCLA Newsroom. “She provided a very high level of leadership.” Read the UCLA Newsroom post here.

 

Pre-Doctoral Workshop for Students of Color Draws 26 Participants

“All of the recent research demonstrates that you get better education, teaching and research with diverse working groups,” said Christine Littleton, UCLA’s Vice Provost for Faculty & Diversity Development.

She was addressing a group of recent graduates and young professionals who expressed interest in earning higher degrees in the field of urban planning. This year’s Association of Collegiate Scholars of Planning (ACSP) Pre-Doctoral Workshop for Students of Color was hosted jointly by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Urban Planning and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Urban Planning and Development graduate program. Twenty-six people from diverse backgrounds participated.

The four-day workshop was robust with panels on urban planning, the basics of PhD study, what it means to earn a PhD in urban planning, and research. The group also went on a tour of Los Angeles that went from MacArthur Park through the Los Angeles Fashion and Produce Districts, and to the Pico Aliso public housing project and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Peppered throughout the workshop was time to network with current doctoral students and faculty.

“This workshop has been a great opportunity,” said Natalie Hernandez, who earned her BA in Urban Studies focusing on environmental sustainability and currently works for the state of California in Sacramento. “I’ve met really cool people who are in the field already, and I don’t know if I would have been able to meet all of them in one place if it wasn’t for this workshop.”

Hernandez says she is certain she wants to earn a masters degree, but is on the fence about doctoral studies. Being able to sit down with faculty members like Evelyn Blumenberg, chair of the Urban Planning department at UCLA, and Manuel Pastor of USC, was meaningful quality time, Hernandez said.

Kimberly Arnold, who works as a research assistant at Drexel University and is interested in public health and how the built environment impacts the health of lower income communities, said the workshop was eye opening for her in many ways.

“I initially didn’t know a lot about urban planning prior to coming and it seemed a bit abstract to me,” Arnold said. “But after coming here and speaking with faculty, staff members and researchers in the field, it really opened my eyes to the fact that there’s a lot of overlap between public health and urban planning.”

The workshop helped Arnold to better define her research interest, and figure out that she can apply to urban planning programs and still have research help from public health faculty.

The most meaningful part for Arnold, however, was talking with faculty and current students about the process of applying to PhD programs, what to expect once in the program, and discussing different sources of funding.

“My undergraduate career was very difficult because they didn’t really value diversity and there weren’t a lot of support systems in place,” Arnold noted. “My graduate school had many more support systems and I was able to thrive there.”

UCLA has a strong commitment to diversity both on and off campus. During her lunchtime talk, Littleton explained that UCLA has demonstrated this by starting a search for a new Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to centralize and enhance diversity efforts on campus. Similarly, Luskin’s Department of Urban Planning has a stellar track record related to diversity with 48 percent of its students identifying as non-white.

The pre-doctoral workshop ended with a campus tour of UCLA and a closing reception with pre-doctoral workshop alumnus Matt Miller giving the closing address.

Miller told the group that he overcame the adversity of growing up in East Palo Alto, cited as the murder capital of California in the 1990s, and went on to earn degrees at Stanford and MIT. He is currently pursuing his PhD at USC.

“Planning is about making communities better – where we live, where we work, where we play, where we worship, and where we learn,” Miller said. He added that he still relies on the friendships and connections he made at the workshop last year for support.

Decriminalized Prostitution in Rhode Island Led to Fewer Rape, Gonorrhea Cases

A new working paper from Public Policy associate professor Manisha Shah and her co-author Scott Cunningham of Baylor University has made waves in the media for its groundbreaking research and surprising findings.

“Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health,” explores the results of seven years in Rhode Island’s history during which indoor prostitution was unintentionally decriminalized.

According to news reports, the state’s legislature amended a law in 1980 which created a legal loophole that decriminalized paid consensual sex if it took place privately indoors. This loophole went unnoticed until 2003, when police took a number of prostitutes to court and lost because of this unanticipated interpretation of the law. It wasn’t until 2009 that new legislation was passed to re-criminalize indoor prostitution.

For Shah and Cunningham, the incident served as a “natural experiment,” to explore the effect of decriminalizing indoor prostitution on the sex market, sexually transmitted infection, and the number of forcible female rape offenses.

Key findings from the study – that Rhode Island saw a large decrease in rapes and a large reduction in gonorrhea incidence for men and women post-2003 – have been widely covered by national and regional news media. Some reports note the fears of international organizations if prostitution is legalized.

Shah and Cunningham say more work needs to be done to evaluate the full spectrum of costs and benefits associated with the Rhode Island experiment, and how to better understand the precise mechanisms that link the reduction in enforcement and the announcement of the loophole in 2003 to reductions in reported rape offenses and STI outcomes.

The paper offers a number of reasons for the declines, including the possibility that the decrease in rapes was “due to men substituting away from rape toward prostitution.” Shah and Cunningham acknowledge that these are currently speculations.

“Technically, our study has internal validity but not necessarily external validity,” Shah said. “What this means is that while we can speak to the effect of decriminalization of prostitution in Rhode Island, we cannot take this and speak out of sample to some other policy environment. But, in that sense, our study is no different from nearly all studies that seek to evaluate some kind of intervention/policy change.

Their study also cannot speak to the effect of decriminalization on human trafficking, which is something that has come up in all the recent press, Shah and Cunningham said. Data limitations don’t allow them to perform a meaningful analysis of that topic.

“Our contribution to this literature is twofold,” Shah and Cunningham wrote. “First, as far as we know, we are the first social scientists to evaluate the decriminalization of prostitution using a natural experiment. This allows us to provide the first causal estimates on the impacts of decriminalization…Secondly, police agencies, lawmakers, and prosecutors all over the US have responded to the growth on the indoor sex market by reallocating large amounts of resources toward arresting sex workers. This reallocation has been considerably costly for local police since the indoor market is more diffuse and hidden. This research can influence change in policies related to police effort of enforcement of laws against prostitution, particularly related to indoor sex work.”

Shah and Cunningham hope that their paper will focus research and policy toward a more rigorous evaluation of prostitution law and policy that moves away from anecdotal work. They stress the importance of good quantitative information about the effects of policies to better understand the costs and benefits of various policy alternatives.

As for the study itself, Shah and Cunningham said they were both surprised and unsurprised by the findings.

“Everything about this experiment is unusual, so in a way, we didn’t know what was more surprising — that a state could “accidentally” legalize indoor prostitution, that no one would practically know about it for 23 years, that we would be successful at obtaining so many different sources of data to investigate it, or that we would find reductions in reported rape offenses and gonorrhea rates,” they said.

“When we started this project, we had to admit to ourselves that we really didn’t know what we should expect. Given there hasn’t been much policy experimentation around this phenomena and almost no causal evidence on the topic, policymakers and academics haven’t had quality findings upon which expectations could be based.”

Michael Storper Makes List of World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds

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Urban Planning professor Michael Storper has made Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.

Each year, Thomson Reuters analyzes data from its Web of Science and InCites platforms to determine the researchers who have produced work that is most frequently acknowledged by their peers. Researchers who published numerous articles that ranked in the top one percent of the most cited in their respective fields in the given year of publication made the list.

Storper, who teaches globalization, economic geography, and regional and international development at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, was recognized in the general Social Sciences category.

“”I’m very happy that my publications are having an impact,” Storper said. “As a scholar, I believe that scientific research is the basis for understanding the world around us and how it may be improved.”

Storper’s latest book, “Keys to the City,” examines economic, institutional, innovational and interactional, and political contexts that shape urban economic development. You can see more of his publications here.

To search the Thomson Reuters database of 2014 influential scientific minds by name, category or university affiliation, you can go here.