The Substance Abuse professor discusses drugs, prevention and the future
Dr. Julie Hogan loves pot. Well, studying it, that is. Friendly and smiling, the woman with short blonde hair, dressed in all black, doesn’t exactly look like your typical marijuana fanatic. As a sociologist, the 50-year-old professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and co-director of the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT) has been focused on researching substance abuse prevention technologies for most of her life, however she is currently undergoing a major shift in that focus.
“I really want to move into pure research,” Hogan said. “I’ve been doing translational for years, and I’m really ready to do some pure research around marijuana…cannabusiness is the future. I go to those business conferences paying out of my own pocket.”
In addition to going to these conferences, she has also been gathering stacks of articles regarding the changing norms and “sociology indicators” surrounding medicinal marijuana in preparation for her upcoming book, “Cannabis Country.” Hogan just recently received a contract for the book on September 14 from Routledge, and expects to finish it within the next few years.
In addition to “Cannabis Country,” Dr. Hogan is currently working on a sequel to her first book, “Substance Abuse Prevention: The Intersection of Science and Practice,” which she co-wrote with three other women in her field. Although she is enthusiastic about the sequel, her work on “Cannabis Country” holds great significance in the field of marijuana research in the U.S., she explains.
“There is a lot of literature available [on marijuana] but it’s not coming from the U.S., it’s coming from two countries, Holland and Israel,” Hogan said, indicating the stack of articles. “In the United States, however, there isn’t anything, because here, federally, marijuana is a Schedule 1 Drug. What that means is there is no medicinal benefit for drugs put on that schedule and they’re supposed to be very very dangerous.”
Due to this fact, Julie has found little research in the U.S. regarding marijuana for her studies here at the CAPT. In addition, she has limited ability to form her own studies due to University policy.
“In the University environment here, there’s an NSHE policy that states that we cannot touch the stuff, evaluate the stuff, or any of that because we’re federally funded,” Hogan said.
This is troubling, considering that, like many others, she has seen firsthand the need for marijuana as a medicinal supplement. She attended the opening of the Silver State Relief dispensary on July 24, and what she saw spoke highly of the importance of medical marijuana research.
“I saw probably a group of 50 people that were in line for medicinal marijuana,” Hogan said. “These were people in wheelchairs, these were older people, people with chronic pain… I was amazed at the type of people I saw outside of this dispensary.”
With a PhD in sociology, Julie’s research really aims to understand the cultural impact of marijuana use. Rather than considering simply the medicinal benefits of the drug, she looks at how society reacts to the use of the drug and how it impacts people as it becomes legalized. The articles she collects all encompass the issue of societal norms surrounding the drug, and she finds this time particularly exciting for research.
“As a drug researcher, I couldn’t tell you of a more exciting time than when a drug is in the process of going from a prohibition status to a legalized status,” Hogan said. “There’s a big tidal wave of acceptance socially, and that’s what I’m interested in as a sociologist.”
This interest began early on, Julie explains. Having started out in the small town of Ponca, Nebraska, where everyone knew each other, had similar attitudes, and came from the same backgrounds, her transition to life and school in a larger city opened her eyes to the world of drugs. Seeing this, Dr. Hogan became incredibly interested in prevention, and also the reason behind people’s use of drugs and their attitudes about them.
“I came from this small Midwest town of under a thousand people,” Hogan said. “I went in there [Nova High School] and I just thought, well geez, here I am in a class of thirteen hundred, which is more than the population of the town I came from, but I’m not going to let this put me down.”
So, Julie’s career really began in high school. She became student body president of the 9th grade-only school, Nova High School in Redding, and she frequently spoke with the administration on drug policy, mainly cigarettes and chewing tobacco. More specifically, the designated smoking areas, in which some students were not even old enough to be smoking. Then, at Shasta High School, she saw a large amount of drug use as well, and marveled at the lack of attention to this issue, and the movement at the school to install spittoons in the hallways. (She mock gags as she tells me this).
Later, at Wayne State in her home state of Nebraska, she worked as an RA, and “dealt with” substance abuse among her residents frequently, or “busting them.” She also wrote her thesis for her master’s degree at Chico State on a substance abuse prevention training she had designed.
During her time at Chico, Julie witnessed a lot of substance abuse firsthand, at events like “Pioneer Days,” where classes were cancelled, and students from Chico and people from all other areas converged on the school for, basically, one huge party filled with all sorts of substance abuse.
“I remember sitting back and hearing MTV say ‘for the biggest party of the year go to Chico State University Pioneer Days’ and here I was, you know, in substance abuse prevention at the nation’s biggest party school and it just launched my career.”
Needless to say, Julie has had an exciting career. From directing substance abuse prevention in Las Vegas for work on her Ph.D., to sitting on the advisory council of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), an organization that offers credentials to Prevention Specialists such as counselors and clinicians, to starting the Red Ribbon Project in California, a project which many California kids might remember as tying red ribbons to fences and saying “I pledge to be drug free”, she has made quite an impact in the field of substance abuse prevention.
From all of this, it’s expected that Dr. Hogan would have quite a few significant accomplishments. A couple of years ago, she set up one of her favorite meetings of her career here at UNR with leaders from the Native American cultures, Alaskan Indian cultures, and the Pacific Jurisdiction. They met in order to come up with a substance abuse training manual, which Julie had been put in charge of and given funding to do.
“For years, I wanted to put these two groups together because I knew that we would receive so much important information and nothing had happened like that before,” Hogan said. “It was just a life-changing meeting, and we came up with a great curriculum as the result of that.”
When Julie first came to The University of Nevada, Reno, she came to assist a colleague at the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) in getting a prevention grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This grant allowed the center to expand the CAPT and made the CASAT in Reno the “Western Regional Expert Team.” This team serves eleven states and six pacific jurisdictions in the field of substance abuse prevention.
Since they received the grant, Julie has been here working and serving Reno along with her team. So far, Julie and her team have received a staggering total of $37.5 million in grants. The CAPT does a number of things with this funding.
“Mostly it’s been substance abuse prevention training and technical assistance,” Hogan said. “We’ve looked at what research says works in prevention and we work with clients that are in each state and we repackage the information in a way that helps to train the work force.”
In addition, Julie and a partner at the office have been involved with gambling prevention and gaming around campus, and are assessing whether or not these are a problem among students here at the University of Nevada. Also, the CAPT were involved with the non-smoking initiative on campus, which just started this fall.
At one point, they also received a grant to serve a hundred miles on either side of the U.S. border; four U.S. states and six Mexican states. Although their situation was difficult in terms of ability to work and go into Mexico, Dr. Hogan gained valuable experience.
“The border region is one that’s been riddled with all kinds of problems. It’s a history where a lot of promises have been made but haven’t been delivered very well,” Hogan said. “So, we kind of came in an environment that was very challenging…It was a real growth opportunity for me to work in that kind of environment.”
Although Julie has been working here at the University since 1997, she just recently began teaching this past year. She teaches a Gaming Leadership course, which she taught for the first time this semester, an Introduction to Addictions course, and two classes of Substance Abuse Prevention. She reflects fondly on her experience teaching here, especially the students.
“I absolutely love my students, they are such good people, so open-minded, with such a thirst for knowledge,” Hogan said. “I have not seen anything like it, and I have taught at all kinds of places. It is a wonderful, nurturing experience.”
Not only is she committed to her work, but she also has a strong bond with her family. Born in the small town of Ponca, Nebraska in a cabin next to the Missouri river, and later,in her teens, living in Redding, California , Julie had a happy childhood. She nostalgically recollects her upbringing.
“It was kind of an idyllic childhood,” Hogan said. “I learned about the love of outdoors through our backyard.”
Julie and her two younger siblings remain close. She and her sister even share their profession of Sociology, she notes fondly.
She has known her husband for almost forty years, and they have been married for about twenty-five (25) years. Her daughters, Anna and Amelia, are very important to her. “They know their mom is this crazy marijuana researcher,” Julie laughs.
Because of her daughters, Dr. Hogan also has a special interest in the problem with drugs at the high schools in Reno. She is confident in her own daughters’ ability to stay away from drugs, but she’s unsure about the current status of prevention in the high schools as a whole. One of her daughters just began attending Bishop Manogue High School, and Julie has been able to view the problem from a new perspective—as a parent.
“I sit on the Safe and Sober Committee, I go to the parent meetings, and yet I know we’re just barely touching the surface of this iceberg.”
In order to drill further into the “iceberg,” Julie believes strongly in the power of research-backed prevention programs. In other words, her specialty. She wishes to see strong intervention programs in all the high schools, and for these programs to be backed by research, or what they know will work. For instance, when it comes to the issue of marijuana use, she thinks it would be wise to consider substances which underwent similar processes: alcohol and tobacco.
“I think we take the lessons learned from those two drugs and put them in place for marijuana. Then we need to evaluate, using the tools of science, the effectiveness. And if it’s ineffective, then we need to do away with the intervention and come up with something else.”
Julie’s ongoing research on the societal impact of marijuana has the potential to give governments valuable insight, and change the way people look at the use of marijuana. As a society, understanding this can help us as we progress and accept the medical, and possibly recreational, use of pot.