Michael Polson
Research Scientist
UC Berkeley Department of Geography
portrait photograph
Michael studies the changing political economies of northern California as marijuana production becomes formal, public, and represented broadly.



Polson, M., Bodwitch, H., Biber, E., Butsic, V., Grantham, T.


There are many barriers to participation in California's regulated cannabis industry. Is there a way to achieve environmental objectives, farmer compliance, and an equitable transition away from illegal markets?


Polson, M., Butsic, V., Dillis, C., de Genova, H., Grantham, T., Herrera, L.R., Hossack, J., Laudati, A., Martin, J.V., Parker-Shames, P., Petersen-Rockney, M., Sorgen, J., Starrs, G.

This report presents multiple pathways for consideration by state and local governments, in their efforts to improve cannabis cultivation policy.

Photo of cannabis plants in an indoor farm greenhouse being cut by an inspector due to non-compliance with regulation.


Bodwitch, H., Polson , M., Biber, E., Hickey, G. M., Butsic, V.

Journal of Rural Studies

Despite legalization, illicit cannabis production continues in California. Surveys reveal that small farmers face outsized burdens to compliance.

outdoor grow within hillside forest


Dillis, C., Biber, E., Bodwitch, H., Butsic, V., Carah, J., Parker-Shames, P., Polson, M. and Grantham, T.

Land Use Policy

How has legalization shaped patterns of farm location, size, land ownership, and regulatory compliance in California?

Photographed graffiti wall painting of police detaining a person associated with Cannabis.


Polsen, M. and Bodwitch, H.

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

Should collective systems of resource sharing developed under cannabis prohibition be explicitly addressed via legalization, policy, and programs?

Photograph of police officer in front of cannabis plants in the outdoors


Polson, M.

Environmental and Planning D: Society and Space

As questions of cannabis legalization arise, exurbs struggle to differentiate the rural and urban.


Polson, M., Petersen-Rockney, M.

California Agriculture

Siskiyou County, and many other counties in California, chose not to recognize cannabis cultivation as agriculture. This ethnographic study reveals the effects on parity in farmer rights and access to resources.

Photo of three white, uniformed male military officers and a black man huddled around a cannabis plant in a pine forest.


Polson, M.

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

How have environmental concerns become cover for injecting exploitation, inequality and stigma into the policy and regulation of cannabis production?

Photo of a button that says "Legalize Cannabis Campaign" arranged in a circle around the silhouette of a cannabis leaf with a striped green, yellow and red background.


Polson, M.

In Economy, Crime and Wrong in a Neoliberal Era

Long before legalization, the use and distribution of marijuana was framed in neoliberal market terms.

Photograph of cannabis farm with tightly aligned, green crop rows in the foreground and forested hills in the background as the sun rises or sets with yellow streaming rays over the scene.


Polson, M.

The Illicit in the Governance and Development of Cities, Regions, and Networks: Corrupt Places

Explore marijuana’s pivotal role in defining the development of Humboldt County in rural North Coast, California.

Colorful graphic of Amador County seal and cannabis leaf imprints


Polson, M.

Territory, Politics, Governance

Power shifts in the governance of medical marijuana redefine ‘community’ and territorial production.

photograph of workers harvesting marijuana plants in a field


Polson, M.

PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

A state-land-finance complex emerges from a changing political economy of marijuana in California.