We study cannabis culture, politics, and economy.


Cannabis brings income to rural regions, supports urban economies and influences local culture. Historically, cannabis offered an alternative path to economic freedom for communities left out of mainstream enterprise. Regulation that serves a market-driven industry undermines these communities. Our studies investigate the effects of practices, policies and programs by engaging with the people who depend on the cannabis industry.

What we’ve learned

  • Rural economies in cannabis-growing regions of California need increased support to withstand rapid policy shifts. Small-scale growers face financial, administrative and psychological barriers to comply with onerous permitting requirements.
    Polson et al. 2023Bodwitch et al. 2021
  • Legalization of cannabis production disrupts supportive, collective systems of cultivation that formed during prohibition. Policies that recognize and build from traditions of “commoning” protect community-based practices that sustain collective benefits.
    Polson and Bodwitch 2021
  • In rural counties of California, cannabis legalization has ignited political struggles that shape exurban development, regional planning, and land use regimes with implications for social inclusion and political power.
    Polson 2020Polson 2017Polson 2015
  • Environmental concerns about cannabis production can mask discriminatory policies that perpetuate prohibition stigmas. When farmers inform policies as legitimate stakeholders and environmental stewards, benefits abound for cannabis-producing communities and the environment.
    Polson 2019
  • Following legalized cannabis production, large-scale landowners in Humboldt County reported direct negative effects of cannabis production on their livelihoods including illegal cultivation on private property, issues with shared roads and the increased cost of labor, but also increased property values.
    Valachovic et al. 2019

Science and Policy Briefs

Outcomes of Local Cannabis Cultivation Bans on California Communities

Local commercial cannabis cultivation bans add administrative cost and lead to economic and social inequities.

Barriers to Compliance

We surveyed California's cannabis farmers to understand their decisions to comply with the state's licensing initiative. Explore our 2019 results to learn specific barriers to compliance.


Related Publications

Two photographs of cannabis. On the left, a densely planted field where budding live plants are covered by a green plastic mesh. On the right, an indoor storage space with bagged cannabis flower.


Polson, M., Bodwitch, H., Corva, D., Getz, C., Laudati, A., Petersen-Rockney, M., Runsten, D., Taylor, K.


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.

Deputy from Sierra County sheriff inspects a cannabis farm


Polson, M.

The Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Cannabis Research


Dillis, C., Bodwitch, H., Carah, J., Power, M., Sayre, N.

The Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Cannabis Research

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

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