Transgression and economy during drug reform

Newman, Jonathan (2017) Transgression and economy during drug reform. In: Adams, Cameron, Waldstein, Anna, Luke, Davi, Sessa, Ben and King, David (eds.) Breaking convention: essays on psychedelic consciousness. Strange Attractor, London, UK, pp. 205-216. ISBN 9781907222221

Full text not available from this repository.


The limited legitimation of a mass consumed object of prior transgression, which was historically produced and circulated in a criminalised economic sector, cannot be separated either from its past or from dominant cultural economies that propel and transform the object. This paper uses ethnographic research on changes within the cannabis industry to explore market responses to drug reform and the sustainability of liberalising drug legislation.

Anthropological insights into how economies are shaped by regulated production, circulation and consumption of objects, provide a platform to examine how markets and social networks respond, and contribute to, drug reform policies during a period of neo-liberal compulsion. Variations in interpretations of transgressions, and enforcement of object prohibitions, interplay with market opportunity and the borders between so-called legal and illegal economies.

Success in a sector on the edge of illegality cultures a particular business approach. The continual shifting between prohibition and greater de-regulation leaves many businesses within the cannabis sector operating legally one day and illegally the next. For an industry where many people have come from a background of prior illegality, these shifting points of transgression are navigated with canny product innovation, subterfuge or geographic flexibility.

The alignment of cannabis with treatments for sickness creates more products for more consumers. The cannabis industry is moving towards greater wealth and legitimacy. Liberalisation in the United States brought an influx of finance capital into new cannabis businesses and an explosion of cannabis ‘products’. Pharmaceutical companies (in compliance with clinical trials) seek to maintain the medical high ground. At the same time the more accessible production of cannabis herbal medicines, based on trials and anecdotal evidence, tries to gain territory through a broad interpretation of the treatment market. Yet, the sector has a history of weak regulation of standards for control of dosage and contamination. Meanwhile the variety of products increases and technological innovations produce purer extracts and higher concentrations of cannabinoids. The consequences of weak self-regulation by the semi-legal, highly competitive industry could produce public health consequences that restrict the scope of further reform.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Drugs, Cannabis, Economy, Regulation
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Depositing User: Jonathan Newman
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2017 14:15
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2017 16:37
📧 Request an update