Listen to My Talk

In September, I gave a talk entitled Purity and Pollution: Cannabis as Matter Out of Place at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. It was part of their Cannabis in Context series, which featured talks on US cannabis policy, cannabis and warfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the neuroscience of cannabis, the rise of CBD and negative experiences with edibles. In my talk I finally got to dig into some field notes on quality and safety testing laboratories, how they differentiate what is safe from what is dangerous, pure from impure, quality from inferior and then to extrapolate this framing to my other work on blight, nuisance, and the politics of environmental harm. Take a listen!

Report to the State of California

Just spent the afternoon in Sacramento at the Capitol, reporting on our research at the Cannabis Research Center. We met with folks from Fish & Wildlife, the Water Board, state parks, California Highway Patrol, the National Guard, the Bureau of Cnnabis Control, Food & Agriculture, Pesticides, CalCannabis, and the Cannabis Enforcement Unit, among others. Van Butsic gave a presentation on what kinds of farms and farmers are coming into compliance, and who is not. Ted Grantham spoke about his research on cannabis and water use. Hekia Bodwitch spoke about the statewide cultivator survey we conducted this summer. And I presented on the work I’ve been doing over the last decade. Great day, over all. Happy to keep contributing to understanding of this complex issue.

If you're in Seattle tonight…

Come see myself and three of my colleagues—Van Butsic, Phoebe Parker-Shames, and Hekia Bodwitch—talk about cannabis policy and the future of the industry. Part of the Discover Cal series Here is their blurb from the website:

Cannabis is unlike any other agricultural crop. Because of its circuitous history — once illegal to grow, and now legal in certain states but heavily regulated — cannabis has cast a unique footprint on the environment and the communities of farmers who grow it. UC Berkeley is home to the Cannabis Research Center , a multidisciplinary team of faculty exploring how cannabis production impacts the world around us. Join us as we learn how this rapidly developing field can grow with sustainability, equity, and society in mind. 

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Podcast: Talk Policy to Me...

I recorded a podcast with Sarah Edwards, of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Listen to Talk Policy to Me “Talking Weed Policy” here. Here’s the blurb:

Jaunary 2019 marked the one-year anniversary of the legalization of recreational cannabis use in California, and the launch of the Cannabis Research Center at UC Berkeley. Sarah Edwards (MPP ‘20) sat down with Michael Polson, researcher and anthropologist, to discuss the impact of legalization on the growers and on the rural communities whose economies often center on cannabis cultivation. Tune in to unpack the equity concerns of the new process, the role of stigma in media narratives, and the personal implications of these changes. 

Piloting the Survey

Friday, Van Butsic, Hekia Bodwitch and I all took a trip up to Mendocino to pilot our survey with some generous, sharp, and super helpful cannabis farmers at Emerald Sun and Flow Kana. Thanks to everyone involved! The survey is on barriers to and experiences with compliance with environmental regulations. It tests several hypotheses about why people do and don’t decide to comply with regulations, including negative or positive experiences with regulators, the belief that a person achieves regulatory aims better (e.g. environmental sustainability) than government regulations, and fear that a person might not be able to weather the costs and demands of a regulated market. All of these are especially aggravated in the case of a formerly-prohibited substance.

April 10 - Dr. Lagalisse on "Marijuana Legalization as Frontier Capitalism"

Marijuana Legalization as Frontier Capitalism

Erica Lagalisse
Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute of the London School of Economics

Moderated by Michael Polson
Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow in Political Economy and Natural Resource Economics and Cannabis Research Center affiliate

Wednesday, April 10 | 3:30-5pm
Social Science Matrix (820 Barrows Hall, 8th floor)

Please email Michael Polson - - to RSVP. Space is limited.

Sponsored by the Cannabis Research Center, UC Berkeley

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley/UCSF Program in Medical Anthropology

Erica Lagalisse’s ongoing multi-sited ethnographic research of both medical(ized) and black-market marijuana production, distribution and consumption suggests that the legalization of marijuana functions as a form of frontier capitalism.  Traditional producers are not granted rights to the marijuana strains and products they have developed; their appropriation by elites constitutes a form of primitive accumulation.  This process is facilitated by traditional producers being cast as “violent” while new white, wealthy, corporate marijuana entrepreneurs are described as “safe” through constructed associations with medicine, purity, and “healing”—constructions of “health” are always political, class-making devices, brought to inaugurate class rights and the respectability of some at the expense of others.

This event is free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible. 
For more information and to rsvp, please contact Michael Polson: 

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Author Meets Critic

Tomorrow I’ll be the “critic” to Michelle Newhart’s and William Dolphin’s new book Medicalization of Marijuana: Legitimacy, Stigma, and the Patient Experience at the Pacific Sociological Association Conference. Luckily, it’s a well-crafted book that delves into the perspectives and insights of medical marijuana patients, showing us not only the peculiarities and lessons learned from medical marijuana but what challenges it poses to the broader practice of medicine in contemporary society. Check out the description of the conference session here.

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