Marijuana legalization and racism article published in SIF

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-11-05-16-am I recently published the article “As Marijuana Becomes Legal, the Legacy of Structural Racism Still Haunts Many,” in Sociology in Focus. This article overviews how the move to legalize marijuana still leaves many marijuana act criminalized, leaving the most vulnerable to continue suffering criminalization of usage. Most importantly, the majority of states have not applied marijuana legalization laws retroactively–thus allowing those imprisoned before the new law to remain in prison or remain with a charge on their record. Also, those with drug crimes on their record are not allowed to work in the legal industry, maintaining structural racism which benefits whites over blacks in entering the profession.

Call for Participants: Tattooists

Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 9.25.54 AM.pngWe are conducting a study of regulations around professional tattooing in the United States. We are interested in speaking with tattoo artists about their experience and knowledge of regulations around their profession and how they would like to see such regulations improved. We are seeking tattooists from a diversity of states and municipalities in order to gain a perspective on the diversity of regulations, from both the local, state, and federal government (OSHA, Health Department) and industry (APT, NTA).


Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 9.37.20 AM.pngBeverly Yuen Thompson: Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology at Siena College, in Albany, NY. Research interests include: subcultures, activism, and gender. Her recent book was published with NYU Press in 2015: Covered in Ink: Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body. She also made the feature documentary Covered, about women and tattooing in the United States.

Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 9.41.24 AM.pngSteph Tai: Associate Professor of Law at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her scholarly research examines the interactions between environmental and health sciences and administrative law. These include the consideration of scientific expertise and environmental justice concerns by administrative and judicial systems, and as well as the role of scientific dialogues in food systems regulation, and the ways in which private governance incorporates scientific research.

In order to participate, email Beverly Yuen Thompson at and mention which state you practice in.

Road trip: Maine to Canada

28546779912_14689ab231_n[photos] “We may get detained at the Canadian border, or even denied entry,” I told mom as we were on our road trip from Albany, New York, through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine and Canada. “It’s because of a protest I tried to attend back in 2003.”

“Oh my goodness, I told you not to do that kind of stuff,” she complains, as usual, when hearing about my shenanigans.

“Look, I’m not going to play safe just to live up to your sheltered life ideals, I want to practice what I believe in and fight for social justice. If I have to suffer some consequences, it’s nothing compared to what other people have to face when fighting against injustice.”

“Oh, it is so hard to talk to you,” mom’s daily refrain.

28688497702_351ef597a8_zMaine is a huge state to drive through, and so are even the smaller of the Canadian provinces. We made it to Portland, ME for our first night, dining at J’s Oyster, a place we’ve dined at before. A few years ago I lived for a summer in Portland, and this was my first visit back to this town that I adore. At the hotel, I ran into my Jeep twin Amy, a woman with the same purple Jeep Wrangler as me, same X Games special edition, albeit she had the 4 door model. We were laughing and taking pictures together as we basked in the Jeep love. The second day, we drove Route 1 up the coast of Maine, definitely the slowest route, and bypassed the Lobster Festival in Rockland, as mom had her fill the night before. We made it all the way to the border, but not past it, for the second night. Woke in the morning to a lake view from our tiny hotel. When we did finally cross into Canada, we were asked to go inside for further questioning, and I explained my previous entry denial due to a protest, we were let through. I love Canada, and wish I could live there permanently, such a better country. The roads were beautiful, well maintained, sparsely populated, and richly green. We drove and drove through New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia, landing in Dartmouth, across the bay from Halifax.

28807102516_57f995cdff_zThe next day was another drive to Prince Edward Island, where we had an amazing hotel in Charlottetown, with a view of the waterfront, boats, and mom was happy. It was a cute town to walk around, and we also explored the nearby coast, Point Prim, a lighthouse, and ate tons of lobster the entire trip. And the next day, we were already making the long trek back to Maine, through Maine, and back to New York state.

28287224883_5b929d2637_zI was surprised that mom let us pick up a hitch hiker whom we encountered at a gas station at the base of Confederation Bridge, the only bridge out of PEI that charged the ransom of $46. JD was Chinese, spoke Mandarin, Cantonese, another dialect, and English. He was only 22, a student in Chicago, but had already lived in Washington state for school, Australia, and was hitchhiking across all of Canada, and had previously traveled across the U.S., Europe, and China. I was impressed by his lifestyle and ability to really go after what he wanted and network his way into such adventures. Had another nice lunch break for more lobster roles with JD, as he demonstrated his adventurous spirit by climbing on the rocks of the bay until security warned him away, and took pictures of the touristy sights. We dropped him at the border of Maine, as he attempted to catch another ride to Quebec, and then onward West.

Amazingly, we were detained by the US Customs and Border Protection for over two hours, as they searched the car, interrogated us about the last 40 years of existence, photographed and finger printed us. This was new treatment for mom, but something I have come to expect from agents of the US state. They interrogated mom about her citizenship states between 1975 and 1977, as she was transitioning from a student visa to earning citizenship. They asked about all of our marriages, previous addresses, arrest records, employment records, colleges attended, and why we looked different in our pictures, and why we were driving a new car. They graciously retrieved our jackets from the car, but we were not allowed to use the restroom, and hadn’t eaten, so we were not prepared for such a stop over. And it was killing our time on the road. In the end, the agent blamed the entire episode on a computer problem, yet warned that if I attempted to cross the border again, I would likely face similar treatment. It took us hours through northern rural Maine to eventually find a hotel, late at night, exhausted and hungry. Welcome back to the police state of ‘Merica. Unfortunately, the bad border treatment kinda ruined the nice memories of our beautiful but quick drive through Canada. We passed through Portland one more time for our last fill of lobster. [photos]



RNC protests

28176289110_4f110610dc_z[RNC protest photos] I wrote my dissertation on mass demonstrations around the “anti-globalization” movement, as it was dubbed by outsiders, or the Global Justice movement, as it referred to itself. I attended most of the mass demonstrations from 1999 to 2004, including the WTO, IMF/World Bank, Republican and Democratic conventions, as well as various trade meetings. Those were exciting times, and I focus my field research on the mass arrests, over policing, the use of direct action inside the jails, the legal support offices, and so on. So this was the experience I was bringing to the streets of the RNC in Cleveland, where I expected an exciting mix based on the rumors: open carry laws, $50 million dollar police grant for fighting protesters, nazis, Trump supporters, protesters, fortress RNC, and protest zones far from the convention site. It sounded exciting.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 10.03.17 PMTherefore, when I arrived, especially on Monday, day 1, I was surprised to see so few people out, and wondered if I’d made a mistake in even coming here after an 8 1/2 drive from NYS. But over the next several days, the activity picked up, making it at least worthwhile. The major difference was that there were no national organizations demonstrating, no labor unions, non-profits, or grassroots groups. There were just a handful of smaller organizations: Ruckus Society, Code Pink, Stand United Against Trump, and the RCP. The RCP got the most arrests, around 21, for flag burning activities and such. Alex Jones of fame stopped by and caused one of the main riot situations on the second day, where the police sectioned off the crowds and contained them until Jones was arrested. Bikers for Trump showed up in a motorcycle caravan to shake hands with the police and stand on their side, but just twenty of them, at most. But with such fear of a Trump presidency, why weren’t more people in the streets, protesting such an event?

Of course, it seems that the Republicans didn’t need outside help, as they were imploding all by themselves with the various scandals of many members not showing, Melania’s speech, Cruz’ refusal to endorse Trump, and Trump’s own fascist, lengthy closing night speech. [RNC protest photos]



Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 3.13.39 PM.png[Vienna photos] Vienna wouldn’t necessarily be high on my list of places to visit personally, but I was attending the third annual International Sociological Association (July 10-14) and rented an airbnb near the tourist attractions and the university for a two week visit, enough time to soak up the feel of the city. Randomly, the cheap ticket I booked had a layover in Amsterdam, which was a coincidence that overlapped nicely with my current research into marijuana legalization, the topic I would be presenting upon at the conference. So I took advantage of the short time I had to explore the city center, making note of the various coffeeshops and walking through the Red Light District, visiting the Erotic Museum while crowds gathered in the background to cheer on the soccer game viewed on bar televisions. [Amsterdam photos]

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 3.12.06 PM.pngVienna is a ghost town on Sundays, the day I arrived. After checking into my apartment and taking another nap, I wandered the streets for hours, hoping for a grocery story. I came upon some Chinese take-out, surprisingly vegan friendly, served by a young woman who spoke at least German, Chinese and English. The town embraced the vegan marketing fad, as most restaurants advertise their vegan holdings, even if just one thing on the menu. Of course, I was just off my raw vegan diet, but I was going to allow myself to eat whatever I wanted, in case there was some kind of special Viennese dish that I didn’t want to deny myself. But thankfully, within a few blocks of my apartment, there was both a raw vegan restaurant, Dancing Shiva, beautifully decorated in hippie Buddhist style, and a vegan gelato place one block away.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 7.55.03 AM.pngAnother benefit for my trip was that a colleague had connected me to her friend Michelle, who lives in NYC, but would also be in Vienna during my same exact dates, and remarkably, was staying at the apartment complex right next door to me. It was so great to have a buddy to tour the town with, and especially one who knew the town from her repeated visits, as well as the culture some of the language. We visited the Schonbrunn Palace, MAK museum, Mumok (modern art), Freud museum, Stephansplatz, and walked around soaking up the sights, streets, and food of Vienna.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 12.28.29 PMThe International Sociological Association was held at the large and historic University Wien, a banner  welcoming the 5,000 sociologists from 126 countries. Endless panels overviewed the usual sociological topics with an international dimension, in a handful of languages, but primarily English. Daily plenary panels discussed the various social crises in Europe, overviewing information we all know, but providing few solutions. Overall, while I definitely appreciate the international context and meeting my colleagues from other countries, paper presentations can be tedious and boring the world over. Luckily, I made a strong connection with a fellow panelist, John, with whom I share significant research interests in deviance, and we both expressed interest in working together. We also had a good time exploring additional sites of the city together, including the Albertina museum with their collection of classic paintings, Schonbrunn Palace, as well as the 21st Century Museum, which featured an opening exhibit for Ai Weiwei. Overall, I had a great two weeks in Vienna, and the best part was getting a chance to share the city experience with new friends, Michelle and John. [Vienna photos]

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Raw Vegan Challenge


Gazpacho ingredients

Why go vegan?

When I was seventeen, I was vegan for five years, and it continues to be my most idealized version of a healthy diet. However, I want to avoid the rigidity of labels, cult member status maintenance politics, or feeling bad about not being 100%. Since I was now on summer vacation from school, I had the time, space, and life-control to focus on maintaining such a rigid diet for a certain amount of time (until the next life event interfered). So I decided to do one month of “practice” during April, the last month of school. I needed practice because I had several mandatory work related dinners and I needed time to figure out just what raw vegan meant in detail. For example, are pickles, kimchi, sweeteners, or seaweed raw vegan? It would take some time to look up and learn the intricacies of such foods, especially condiments that many raw vegan individuals or restaurants continue to serve, but were not within the bounds of raw. The challenge would last for two months during June and July. In this way it would be a long enough period to establish a pattern of super healthy eating, provide enough space to learn many recipes, and break consumption patterns that I was ready to give up, such as the habit of drinking daily tea (I have already given up coffee three years ago, and only have it on very rare occasions, such as leaving the country). After the challenge, I would like to be as close to vegan as possible, maybe 90%, and also get away from eating refined carbohydrates. Ultimately, it’s about feeling what my idealized diet entails, shifting my perspective, and seeing that this would be a happy and fulfilling way to live. While we don’t always control our eating environment, by living alone and working a very flexible schedule, I have lots of room room to exercise such a regiment.

26800037694_300519bef5_zI covered the stove with a piece of black painted wood and put the dehydrator on top of it, which would be my main “cooking” machine for such things as dried fruit, crackers,  kale chips, and coconut yogurt. I put my spices in my microwave to conserve space. I bought a food processor, and would be relying on my Vitamix and juicer as well. I would need to shop more frequently and intensely at the Asian Market, grocery store, food coop, and farmers markets in search of fresh produce and deals. It would take time, I could watch Netflix on the laptop kitchen counter while processing vegetables. I could take the trail mix, raw bars, and dried fruits on my hikes on the Long Trail in Vermont, as I added a new life changing challenge to the mix.


dehydrator crackers with cashew cream sauce, avocado and tomatoes

So what did I eat? [Pictures.] Huge piles of fruit that you would never imagine eating all at once. Making meals out of entire bags of cherries or organic red grapes. Kale chips as many nights as I could remember, and supplementing that with store bought kale chips (which are definitely not as good as fresh and covered in huge coatings of gook, that can also contain amounts of refined sugar, if you don’t read carefully). Only eating in a restaurant one time during the entire two months. Coconut yogurt made just from blending coconut meat and a bit of water, adding probiotic powder, and dehydrating for six hours, then adding fruit, and sweetened with agave (which is probably the most questionable ingredients I allowed, but it says “raw” so what the hell). I become found of kimchi and I bought sauerkraut for the first time in my life (the coop has an entire fridge section full of just these two products, my favorite was dill sauerkraut). I dehydrated bananas, apples, pineapples, yellow mangos, heirloom tomatoes, cherries, kiwis, strawberries, and crackers (food pulp from juicer, nuts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, tomato, orange juice, just any wet and dry ingredients, really, it just takes days). Chia seed pudding with cashew milk. (Soaked) black rice sushi with raw nori sheets and vegetables. Lots of banana ice cream. Red grape ice cream.  Zucchini noodles with pesto basil cashew cream sauce. Almond butter celery sticks with assorted vegetables. Juices. Gazpacho soup. And (soaked and sprouted) hummus, which took an unreasonable three days to make, taking into account the soaking and sprouting time.


soaked black rice sushi

Overall, it was a shift in how I conceptualized meals, and when I craved a cooked comfort food meal, the kale chips came in handy, as well as some hearty salads with homemade dressing and seaweed, but otherwise, snacking on fruits and veggies throughout the day without set meals was a fine routine. Hefty green smoothies could be taken to the office or as a filling breakfast. Crackers with cashew cream sauce, avocados and tomatoes made a good platter. Avocado cucumber soup was rich, creamy and filling. It was great to be able to eat a large container of nice cream desserts completely guilt-free. I had my food fantasies and cravings, but I could eat those soon enough, if I even wanted to, and it was fun to learn to make new things and add new varieties of food to my meals, a chance to explore items I wouldn’t ordinarily choose or even notice, without such a restriction which begged for creativity.


sprouted garbanzo hummus

But alas, July 1st came and ended the challenge, because I was off to Vienna and would be spending over 24 hours navigating airports and an overnight layover in Amsterdam. I would allow myself to eat whatever was available, but keeping my sensibilities of consuming from lower on the totem pole, but also giving in to some cravings if just to prove that such foods weren’t as amazing as I had imagined. They would be a disappointment. When I did do such things, I felt immediately guilty, and realized that it was awesome to not have food guilt feelings for over two months. Luckily once arriving and settling into Vienna, it seemed that vegan had become a trendy buzzword, so restaurants with only one or two vegan options would advertise that fact on a vegan menu sign in front of the establishment. But there was a vegan gelato place named Veganista one block away, and five blocks away was Dancing Shiva a beautiful, large, raw vegan restaurant with many complex and delicious meals, and a good refrigerator full of take-away items such as walnut pate, zucchini hummus, house made kombucha, mousse, kimchi, raw vegan chocolate bars, and so on. I could come here everyday. What an excellent find after breaking the raw vegan challenge and finding one’s self in a meat-oriented culture.


banana and grape nice cream

I definitely enjoyed my raw vegan challenge and the space it provided for me to learn new recipes and expose myself to new products that I would otherwise pass up. I look forward to doing the challenge again, and even mom is impressed and wants to move in a similar direction, especially as she continues to battle cancer challenges. And as I previously mentioned, committing to 90% veganism would be three days of non-veganism per month, which should provide a good enough release valve for my food cravings and could be adjusted according to my change in palate. Ultimately for me, while there are many reasons folks become vegan I mostly encourage folks to just shift their diet in a vegan direction more and more, without the idea necessarily that one must be 100%. That would be a less intimidating idea for most people who would otherwise not consider such a shift. One less meat meal a day or every few days, and then increasing fruits and veggies into the diet gradually until it could tip the 50% marker. Change one’s taste and understanding of food gradually. But it is undeniable that meat and dairy industrial production is having a catastrophic impact on the environment and is completely unsustainable. Therefore, all of us can shift our diet in this direction more so than we are currently, and continue to push it gradually, but quicker than the expansion of one’s comfort zone, in order to be conscious and continue to grow and improve. And one way vegans can encourage newcomers is to prepare delicious and welcoming meals that will expand people’s minds of stereotypically vegan fare. There’s finally a diet where you can eat a huge tub of ice cream without feeling guilty, what’s not to love? 26920198611_b51c8c5e83_z