PhD Graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson on the Normalization of Cannabis Use

PhD graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson, in collaboration with Andrew Hathaway (University of Guleph), Amir Mostaghim (University of Guelph), and Geraint Osborne (University of Alberta), published an article in Deviant Behavior. The article explores the social networks that are embedded in the use and supply of cannabis. The authors argue that these social networks contribute to the normalization of cannabis use.

Kat Kolar obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2018. Her dissertation is titled Differentiating the Drug Normalization Framework: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Substance Use among Undergraduate Students in Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at UBC researching the social integration of substance use and health inequities impacting people who use illicit drugs. Patricia Erickson is a retired senior scientist at CAMH and a Professor (status-only) in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Crime and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include illicit drug use and drug policy; youth, violence, mental health and addictions.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through Research Gate here.

Hathaway, Andrew D., Amir Mostaghim, Patricia G. Erickson, Kat Kolar, and Geraint Osborne. 2018. “‘It’s Really No Big Deal: The Role of Social Supply Networks in Normalizing Use of Cannabis by Students at Canadian Universities.” Deviant Behavior.

Cannabis (marijuana) has undergone a normalizing process as indicated by high use rates, social tolerance, and broader cultural acceptance of its use in many countries. Users also maintain access through extended friendship networks that facilitate the cultural diffusion of the practice. The social nature of supply is herein theorized in terms of Goffman’s understanding of activities that function to preserve a sense of normalcy as a collective achievement enabling predictable constructions of reality. Based on in-depth interviews with undergraduate students, we explore how social networks of supply—characterized by casual access, reciprocity, and sharing—contribute to shared meanings about using marijuana as an unremarkable or “normal” thing to do.

Read the full article through ResearchGate here.

PhD Graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson on Coping Strategies of Street-Involved Youth

PhD graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson, in collaboration with Donna Stewart (University Health Network), published an article in the Journal of Youth Studies. The article examines lived experience, mental health, and coping strategies among “street-involved youths.”

Kat Kolar obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2018. Her dissertation is titled Differentiating the Drug Normalization Framework: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Substance Use among Undergraduate Students in Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at UBC researching the social integration of substance use and health inequities impacting people who use illicit drugs.Patricia Erickson is a retired senior scientist at CAMH and a Professor (status-only) in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Crime and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include illicit drug use and drug policy; youth, violence, mental health and addictions.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through ResearchGate here.

Kolar, Kat, Patricia Gail Erickson, and Donna Stewart. 2012. “Coping Strategies of Street-Involved Youth: Exploring Contexts of Resilience.” Journal of Youth Studies, 15(6):744-760.

Literature on how street-involved youth (SIY) cope with risky environments remains very limited. This exploratory study investigates SIY’s coping strategies, employing the ‘contexts of resilience’ framework (where resilience is understood as a process that changes over time and by environment) to situate an inductive thematic analysis of interviews with 10 current and former SIY. Three themes are explored: social distancing; experiences of violence; and self-harm and suicidality. The first two themes illustrate the double-edged nature of some coping strategies. While social distancing could contribute to isolation from social supports and violent self-defense to retaliatory harm, without alternative resources to prevent victimization these strategies must be acknowledged as reasoned responses to the risks associated with a violent milieu. Strategies assumed to be maladaptive among more normative youth may be among the limited resources available for SIY to utilize in attempts to make positive changes in their lives. The final theme explores self-harm and suicidality as indicative of social and structural needs and shows how in the SIY context such behaviors may not signify an outcome of non-resilience. The adaptation of assessments of coping strategies to be congruent with evaluative contexts should be applied to resilience research addressing other marginalized populations.

Read the full article here.

PhD graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson on Abstaining from Cannabis Use

PhD graduate Kat Kolar and Professor Patricia Erickson, in collaboration with Andrew Hathaway (University of Guleph), Amir Mostaghim (University of Guelph), and Geraint Osborne (University of Alberta), published an article in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. The article explores the attitudes of Canadian undergraduate students who choose not to use cannabis. The authors find that these students still maintain ideas about drug use as deviant behavior and connect it to cultural ideals surrounding gender and other social statuses.

Kat Kolar obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2018. Her dissertation is titled Differentiating the Drug Normalization Framework: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Substance Use among Undergraduate Students in Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at UBC researching the social integration of substance use and health inequities impacting people who use illicit drugs. Patricia Erickson is a retired senior scientist at CAMH and a Professor (status-only) in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Crime and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include illicit drug use and drug policy; youth, violence, mental health and addictions.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through ResearchGate here.

Hathaway, Andrew D., Amir Mostaghim, Patricia G. Erickson, Kat Kolar, and Geraint Osborne. 2018. “‘It’s Really No Big Deal: The Role of Social Supply Networks in Normalizing Use of Cannabis by Students at Canadian Universities.” Deviant Behavior.

Aims: To critically investigate the extent of normalisation of the use of cannabis by undergraduate students. To examine the extent of peer accommodation, this paper focuses on attitudes of students who abstain. It sheds light on social meanings of the practice by exploring non-users’ reasons for abstaining in addition to their attitudes, perceptions and experiences of use among their peers.
Methods: Respondents were recruited to participate in interviews through an online survey of undergraduate students in social science classes at three Canadian universities.
Findings: Peer accommodation of the use of cannabis requires that users exercise due caution and discretion and be respectful of the choices of non-users not to use. Non-users’ attitudes, however, still reflect longstanding cultural assumptions about drug use as a deviant behaviour. Attitudes towards the use of cannabis reflect norms and expectations about gender among other culturally constructed social statuses and roles.
Conclusions: Future research should continue to investigate nuances of the differentiated normalisation process. A better understanding of the cultural transformation of cannabis, and other drugs in common use by youth, requires more exploration of the emerging social context and attitudes of users and non-users of the drug.

Read the full article through ResearchGate here.

A Perfect Storm

Patricia Erickson croppedProfessor Pat Erickson’s research was recently highlighted in an in-depth article in the Varsity Magazine discussing marijuana regulation in Canada. Professor Erickson is a retired senior scientist at CAMH and a Professor (status-only) at the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Crime and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include illicit drug use and drug policy; youth, violence, mental health and addictions. The Varsity article discusses Professor Erickson’s research into the cultural acceptance of cannabis.

A Perfect Storm: Marijuana regulation is on the horizon

By Teodora Pasca   April 1, 2016

It only takes a brief walk around campus to realize how thoroughly marijuana has worked its way into university life. Flyers that advertise cannabis culture events are stapled to soft boards, vaporizers peek out of pockets and backpacks, and the unmistakable smell of pot smoke seeps from alleyways and the windows of fraternities.

Further west into Kensington Market, the air thickens with marijuana smoke; dispensaries and head shops line the crowded streets. Beyond Kensington, cannabis culture shops continue to populate Yonge Street, Bloor Street, and Queen Street West.

The pervasiveness of marijuana use throughout the city is a perfect example of how Canadian criminal law — which prohibits recreational cannabis use — is not always sufficient to stamp out the behaviours it inhibits. Yet, a storm is brewing within the hallowed halls of Parliament: a brand new cannabis regulation system may on the horizon.

When the Liberal Party of Canada pledged to legalize marijuana during their 2015 election campaign, many welcomed the idea. Now after taking office, the Liberal government seems intent upon keeping its word.

The government has stated it will “legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana,” and it has appointed Honorable Bill Blair, Liberal Member of Parliament and former Toronto Chief of Police, to spearhead the project.

Support of the masses

Many university students stand in favour of this proposition. “I don’t think it is right that the government can decide what we want to put in or do to our bodies,” explains Serena*, a third-year student at Innis College. “If we are legally allowed to poison ourselves with alcohol and cigarettes, then I think it should be [okay] for us to be able to have a toke or two on a Saturday night.”

“I absolutely believe marijuana should be legalized,” agrees Jenny*, a second-year student at Ryerson University. “It has been proven to improve a growing list of mental illnesses and physical ailments; it allows for many to ‘cope’ with the reality inherited from a corrupt, and otherwise socially unjust society; and it expands the mind to a point of untapped potential.”

These attitudes coincide with a recorded growth of acceptance and tolerance for cannabis use in Canada. An estimated 43 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 have tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime, and a November 2015 poll revealed that 59 per cent of Canadians support its legalization, regulation, and taxation.

Dr. Patricia Erickson, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Toronto and scientist emerita in public health and regulatory policy at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), has recently been tracing marijuana use in Canada. She states that the trend toward tolerance of cannabis has been called a ‘phenomenon of normalization’ — not only because of its prevalence but also due to an increased cultural tolerance among non-users for the activity.

“[There is] more willingness to see it as an activity that doesn’t necessarily go with being a deviant or being involved in other types of illegal activities,” Erickson explains. She emphasizes that normalization is restricted to cannabis use that does not interfere with regular activities, which means that ‘stoners’ or chronic users may still be looked down upon by their peers…(read the full article here).