Cannabis policy intersects all of our work.


Our methods cross disciplines to uncover the social and ecological impacts of policy decisions. Our findings show that conflicts between local, state and federal regulation can lead to unintended outcomes and missed opportunities. Our recommendations cut through the complexity to address the needs of people and the environment.

What we’ve learned

  • Farmers encounter significant barriers to licensing, leading many to decide to never seek a license. These barriers significantly impact smaller farmers or those with fewer resources. This can Intensify industrial consolidation.
    Bodwitch 2021
  • California cannabis growers characterized legalization as harmful to their businesses and communities. They describe a process that excludes small growers, contributes to an increase in black market sales, and undermines economies of rural communities.
    Bodwitch et al. 2019
  • Larger farms are more likely to apply for permits. Permitted cannabis farms tend to be larger, newer, and sited in areas with lower slopes and stream densities. In the years prior to legalization farm size expanded significantly in Humboldt County.
    Schwab et al. 2019
  • Cannabis bans and “enforcement first” approaches undermine regulatory goals and deepen disparities. Re-criminalizing cannabis cultivation undermines state-level policies and programs that promote social equity and protect the environment.
    Polson and Petersen-Rockney 2019
  • Legalization of cannabis production can paradoxically disrupt supportive, collective systems of cultivation that formed during prohibition. Policies that recognize and build from “commoning” practices can help sustain collective benefits.
    Polson and Bodwitch 2021
  • Increases in California’s budget for cannabis regulatory programs appear inadequate relative to the pressures of cannabis agriculture on the environment.
    Butsic et al. 2018

Science and Policy Briefs

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.

Cannabis Agriculture 101

Is cannabis legal to grow and sell? How is it grown? How widespread are farms and facilities? Explore the facts of California cannabis agriculture and regulation.


Related Publications

photograph of a circular lined pond, full of water, on a forested slope


Dillis, C., Butsic, V., Georgakakos, P., Portugal, E., Grantham, T.

Environmental Research Communications

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

Land Use Policy


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.

Photograph of irrigation infrastructure on a cannabis farm. Includes storage tanks, pipes and fertilizer


Dillis, C., Butsic, V., Carah, J., Zipper, S.C. and Grantham, T.

Environmental Research Communications

Load More