A: I’m the executive director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy in Washington state, and I an affiliate researcher for the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research at Humboldt State University. I have an academic background as a public policy scholar, with a PhD in Political Geography and four years as a visiting assistant professor at Sarah Lawrence College in Politics, Public Policy and Geography. For the last four years, I have focused my postdoctoral research my research on political economy of cannabis agriculture in Southern Humboldt County, and have expanded that to Washington State.
Q: What’s an “organic intellectual?”
A: An organic intellectual is somebody who organizes knowledge about a social issue outside of a traditional institutional context, because the issue is one is embedded in her or his lifework. For me, this means that our think tank isn’t just looking at the results of cannabis policy reform, but studying how cannabis policy reform connects with wider social issues in my adopted home state of Washington, especially.
Q: You’ve studied cannabis extensively as an academic. What’s your relationship with the plant?
First, cannabis policy reform is about many things beyond the plant itself. Cannabis policy has come from and helped shape many of the major social issues we have today: the security-industrial complex, the economy, the environment, race and gender relations, and so forth. Second, I have a social relationship with the cannabis, as a bio-political subject that I think is adaptogenic – it can help people adapt to dislocations and discontinuities associated with modernity. Or, that’s how I’ve experienced it.
Q: How did you get involved with studying cannabis?
While getting my PhD studying the political economy of US-promoted drug policy in Latin America, I decided to try something different and designed the class “Reefer Madness” at the University of Washington to explore cannabis’s effects on culture, how it was treated by policy and how those policies impacted people. From there, I became very interested in drug policy in the U.S. I embarked to Southern Humboldt for my postdoctorate research agenda on the political economy of cannabis agriculture there.