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Dissertation Research

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Katie's dissertation is a multi-method ethnographic case study of cannabis legalization and commercialization in the United States.

Criminalization and prohibition fuels race, class, and gender inequality. Critical sociological research supports calls to legalize and decriminalize. Yet, the most socially just way to do so remains an open question.

Katie's research investigates limitations and potentialities of a highly commercialized model of legalization. For a year, she immersed herself in California's legal weed industry and collected three forms of data:

  • participant observation as a retail employee in dispensaries;

  • in-depth interviews with workers and entrepreneurs, foregrounding the experiences of women of color; and 

  • content analysis of cannabis industry media, analyzing pro-legalization lobbying and retail marketing/advertising in stores.​

Her analysis focuses on how gender, race, and class intersect to shape narratives and practices used to legitimize a stigmatized drug and promote the industry in a commercial legalization model. By centering experiences of gender- and race-marginalized people at various levels of the industry, Katie's work reveals limitations of commercial legalization for fostering equity and justice post-prohibition. [Illustration by Curt Merlo.]

Dissertation Research: Welcome
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