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Marijuana Legalization Could Have Unknown Impacts on Child Welfare Marijuana use and density of dispensaries, has effects on child abuse and neglect

(Photo source: http://www.dailytitan.com

(Photo source: http://www.dailytitan.com

Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler released a study July 18 examining how marijuana use and the concentration of marijuana dispensaries in a given area contribute differently to child abuse or neglect.

Freisthler cites data from a national study showing illicit drug use was a factor in 9.5% of cases of physical abuse and about 12.5% of all neglect cases. In California, physical abuse is defined as “physical injury inflicted by other than accidental means on a child,” while child neglect is described as “the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision.”

As marijuana has become more available over the past two decades, due to increased legalization for either medical or recreational purposes, the lasting effects of changing marijuana legislation on social problems are still largely unknown.

This changing legislation around marijuana use has left child welfare and public health professionals without a standardized way to determine best practices regarding issues related to parenting and child abuse and neglect for parents who use marijuana for recreational or medical purposes.

“Child welfare systems rely heavily on federal guidelines, and as norms and laws around marijuana continue to change the child welfare system will have to figure out the standard upon which to evaluate cases,” Freisthler said. “That’s part of the problem: There’s currently no guidance as to what should happen in the system.”

Freisthler and her co-authors Paul J. Gruenewald and Jennifer Price Wolf, of the Prevention Research Center at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, examined the relationship between this increased availability of marijuana and its correlation with abusive and neglectful parenting.

The study found that parents who reported using marijuana in the past year engaged in physical abuse three times more frequently than those who did not, while having greater densities of storefront marijuana dispensaries was related to more frequent physical abuse. Interestingly, no significant relationship was found between child neglect and marijuana use.

In other words, marijuana use and the concentration of marijuana dispensaries in a given area is related to more frequent use of physical abuse, but were not related to child neglect.

As marijuana use becomes more common due to changing norms and laws allowing for recreational use, legalization may result in higher rates of physical abuse in the general population, according to the study.

“Child abuse and neglect aren’t on the radar when it comes to the discussion about the legalization of marijuana,” Freisthler said. Overall, her study probes those “unintended consequences of policy change around marijuana.”

Freisthler and her co-authors suggest future studies to understand how child welfare workers look at risks associated with medical marijuana use and how this corresponds with other types of licit (e.g., alcohol or prescription drugs) and illicit substance use.

In addition to her research, Freisthler leads the Spatial Analysis Lab in the department of social welfare and the Child Abuse and Neglect Social Ecological Models Consortium.

This project is funded by grant number P60-AA-006282 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and grant number R01-DA032715 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler released a study July 18 examining how marijuana use and the concentration of marijuana dispensaries in a given area contribute differently to child abuse or neglect.

Freisthler cites data from a national study showing illicit drug use was a factor in 9.5% of cases of physical abuse and about 12.5% of all neglect cases. In California, physical abuse is defined as “physical injury inflicted by other than accidental means on a child,” while child neglect is described as “the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision.”

As marijuana has become more available over the past two decades, due to increased legalization for either medical or recreational purposes, the lasting effects of changing marijuana legislation on social problems are still largely unknown.

This changing legislation around marijuana use has left child welfare and public health professionals without a standardized way to determine best practices regarding issues related to parenting and child abuse and neglect for parents who use marijuana for recreational or medical purposes.

“Child welfare systems rely heavily on federal guidelines, and as norms and laws around marijuana continue to change the child welfare system will have to figure out the standard upon which to evaluate cases,” Freisthler said. “That’s part of the problem: There’s currently no guidance as to what should happen in the system.”

 

Freisthler and her co-authors Paul J. Gruenewald and Jennifer Price Wolf, of the Prevention Research Center at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, examined the relationship between this increased availability of marijuana and its correlation with abusive and neglectful parenting.

The study found that parents who reported using marijuana in the past year engaged in physical abuse three times more frequently than those who did not, while having greater densities of storefront marijuana dispensaries was related to more frequent physical abuse. Interestingly, no significant relationship was found between child neglect and marijuana use.

In other words, marijuana use and the concentration of marijuana dispensaries in a given area is related to more frequent use of physical abuse, but were not related to child neglect.

 

As marijuana use becomes more common due to changing norms and laws allowing for recreational use, legalization may result in higher rates of physical abuse in the general population, according to the study.

“Child abuse and neglect aren’t on the radar when it comes to the discussion about the legalization of marijuana,” Freisthler said. Overall, her study probes those “unintended consequences of policy change around marijuana.”

Freisthler and her co-authors suggest future studies to understand how child welfare workers look at risks associated with medical marijuana use and how this corresponds with other types of licit (e.g., alcohol or prescription drugs) and illicit substance use.

In addition to her research, Freisthler leads the Spatial Analysis Lab in the department of social welfare and the Child Abuse and Neglect Social Ecological Models Consortium.

This project is funded by grant number P60-AA-006282 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and grant number R01-DA032715 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

UCLA Medical Marijuana Research Team Releases Brief On Dispensaries The team examined the changes in the number and location of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles.

By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin Student Writer 

The UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team led by Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler recently released a brief that examines the changes in the number and location of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles over a seven year time period.

The brief illuminates the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. In 2007, Los Angeles had 187 open and operating dispensaries but by 2014 the number had reached 418. This finding could have implications on the monitoring of dispensaries. In 2013 voters passed Proposition D, a city ordinance that would, in part, limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city to 135. Despite this ordinance, Freisthler’s research showed that the city currently has over three times that limit as of 2014. 

The research also showed a shift in distribution of dispensaries across the city, moving “from the San Fernando Valley and East L.A. to the South L.A. and San Pedro areas”.


The map shows the rate of change of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city from 2007 to 2014. While some neighborhoods saw a decrease in dispensaries, the rate of change in others, like South LA and San Pedro, increased over 250 percent. 

According to Freisthler, the shift in dispensary distribution can be attribute to gang activity where in areas like South LA “dispensaries were run out by the gangs. And now gangs are converting parts of their street market to dispensaries.”

The large increase in dispensaries in San Pedro could also be a result of cause and effect.  As dispensaries were being shut down in Long Beach “due to increased enforcement, dispensaries migrated to San Pedro,” Freisthler says. 

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and led by Dr. Bridget Freisthler, Principal Investigator, with Dr. Paul J. Gruenewald, Co-Investigator; Crystal Thomas, Graduate Student; Alexis Cooke, Graduate Student Researcher; and Alex Creek, Student Researcher.  

The UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team was initiated as a way to examine how the emergence of dispensaries change the ecological landscape of the neighborhoods in which they are located, including changes in crime and dependence. The research team hopes to provide communities with guidance on regulatory processes that may improve neighborhood problems related to dispensaries.