Growing up in Los Angeles I’d have stared at you in disbelief if you told me I’d move to the UK, complete a PhD there, and then head to Canada to pursue my academic career. But here we are.
I have experience assisting in criminal justice advocacy and litigation from my time at the ACLU, consultative programme development, and criminal justice policy research. I have a PhD in Social Policy from The London School of Economics and Political Science, where I was affiliated with the Mannheim Centre for Criminology. My doctoral work focused on understanding the impact of adaptive policing responses to drugs policy as implemented by street-level officers.
While I most enjoy ethnography and drug policy related research, I have a broad methodological background and experience analyzing many facets of criminal justice policy, including street-level policing, community policing, policy impacts, and police culture. I’ve also served on the Ontario Parole Board, overseeing hearings in the provincial correctional system.
My main areas of focus are cannabis and harm reduction policy. I started my research career studying cannabis use by terminally ill patients at the Wo/men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, California. While in Santa Cruz I helped draft, pass, and implement Measure K which made cannabis issues the lowest law enforcement priority in the city. I later went on to work at the now defunct Drug Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, where we pursued nationally focused litigation and public education efforts. Our work focused issues such as reforming the use of confidential informants in drug cases, ensuring free speech for young people discussing drugs, and reducing the racial disproportionality of anti-drug policies.
I did my doctoral research at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and spent a year alongside officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, observing how officers fit anti-drugs work into their working practices. My findings identified how officers were incentivized to target low-level cannabis possession interactions to meet performance management targets, leading to widespread disproportionate responses. I went on to write about this disproportionality in a report put out by Release, the UK’s largest legal-aid charity focused on drugs work.
Since obtaining my PhD I’ve conducted work on a number of different drug policy areas, including young people’s decision making around cannabis consumption. This soon to be published work examines how young people learn about cannabis, make decisions about how they’ll use cannabis, and will help inform business and policy makers about how to target public education and marketing campaigns to the consumers. We’re currently working an an expanded version of that project, gathering surveys from young people in Canada. I’m also a member of the Global Cannabis Cultivation Research Consortium, and we’ve recently launched a new survey exploring small-scale growing practices in Canada. My research tends to focus on examining how policies are actually engaged upon both by the agents carrying them out and the individuals who are the intended recipients.
As a Professor of Criminal Justice in the Faculty of Social and Community Services at Humber College in Ontario, Canada, I Chair our Humber Harm Reduction Partnership (HHaRP), and teach SOCI 3011 Drugs: Society and Policy in addition to many other courses.