Publications

2013. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 36(2). pp.215-230.

Despite its ongoing federal illegality, marijuana production has become a licit, or socially accepted, feature of northern California’s real estate market. As such, marijuana is a key component of land values and the laundering of “illegal” wealth into legitimate circulation. By following land transaction practices, relations, and instruments, this article shows how formally equal property transactions become substantively unequal in light of the “il/legal” dynamics of marijuana land use. As marijuana becomes licit, prohibitionist policies have enabled the capture of ground rent by landed interests from the marijuana industry at a time when the price of marijuana is declining (in part due to its increasing licitness). The resulting “drug war rentier nexus,” a state–land–finance complex, is becoming a key, if obscured, component within marijuana’s contemporary political economy.


2015. Territory, Politics, Governance. 3(4). pp.387-406.

As governments worldwide justify the transformation of marijuana governance from one police power (law enforcement) to others (e.g. public health, zoning), the place of marijuana in lawful society is transforming rapidly. No venue in California is more central to this than land-use regulatory bodies, which decide how marijuana rights, practices, and relations become territorial. Land-use powers, as a declaration of the state’s police power, require a definitional rendering of ‘community’. This article analyses an episode of outdoor marijuana cultivation policy-making and the struggles over the definition of community in a conservative exurban California county. From debates on fences, property line setbacks, rental terms, and nuisance complaints to racial and economic anxieties and the roaming stigma of crime, marijuana advocates confronted a powerful logic of private property and the moral-aesthetic propriety it implies. Despite the subordination of advocates’ claims to the terms of private property, outlaw communities sustained their own forms of territorial governance, informal regulatory and enforcement powers, and understandings of community. This episode, which illuminates territorial production across illegal/legal lines, has implications for understandings of liberal rule of law, political possibility, and the practice of citizenship.


2017. The Illicit and Illegal in Regional and Urban Governance and Development: Corrupt Places.Francesco Chiodelli, Tim Hall, & Ray Hudson, Eds. Regions and Cities Series of Regional Studies Association. New York: Routledge.

The recent liberalization of California’s marijuana policy has increasingly made the plant an object of economic developmental visions. This formal interest in marijuana belies marijuana’s development—and underdevelopment—under prohibition. Analyzing the case of Humboldt County, this chapter traces how marijuana became an integral part of the county’s timber-based developmental regime and, since timber’s decline, a pivot around which a struggle between smart growth and rentierdevelopmental blocs over the county’s post-extractive development have circulated. In each developmental vision, the illegal both defined the limits of the formally developable and marked a mode of development (and governance) otherwise. See Table of Contents and Abstracts here. Download introduction here.


2018. Economy, Crime and Wrong in a Neoliberal Era. James Carrier, Ed. European Association of Social Anthropologists Series. New York: Berghahn Books.

US marijuana legalization breaks with prohibition in many ways. Despite celebrations of the “green rush” and market “emergence,” however, marijuana’s formation as a market has a longer history rooted in prohibition. Drawing from ethnographic research, this chapter argues that an expanded War on Drugs in the 1980s produced a field of intervention, “the marijuana economy,” that incited marketized subjectivities, discourses and practices in a neoliberal, if paradoxically illiberal, manner. Later, marijuana’s not-for-profit medicalization was also made legible in market terms. As marijuana enters formal market circulation, this chapter urges attention to its articulation with older market moralities and inequalities. See Table of Contents and download Introduction here.


2019. Environment and Planning: Nature and Space. DOI: 10.1177/2514848619834847

Over the past two decades, activists and market actors have successfully liberalized marijuana consumption and distribution in most US states. Given ongoing federal supply-side interdiction strategies, however, production has been another matter. This article traces the emergence of marijuana cultivation as an environmental matter. ‘‘The environment’’ increasingly constitutes a material-discursive social field into which actors (e.g. activists, law enforcement, producers, conservationists) can launch interventions into productive processes. The article traces three early, formative interventions in northern California: by federal agents to reclaim and protect public lands; by a county government to discipline and segregate compliant environmental citizens from recalcitrant, racialized ‘‘criminals’’; and by producers themselves to mobilize environmental discourses in regulatory debates. Amidst ideas of pollution, reclamation, stewardship, and sustainability, these projects revalorized marijuana production, articulating with and departing from entrenched systems of inequality and stigma. As marijuana production liberalizes, this article draws attention to the legacy of prohibition moralities in regulatory debates, the necessity of incorporating criminalized actors in civil regulation and knowledge formation, and the possibility for a liberation environmentality that exceeds the terms of exploitative, extractive relations that dominate contemporary agriculture, land use, and drug policy. Download final draft version here.