Nathan Sayre, Professor

Closed (1) Transformation of Unregulated Cannabis Cultivation in California

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Overview: This project examines the effects of legalization on California’s unregulated cannabis market. Integrating in-depth ethnographic methods and advances in participatory citizen science techniques, it seeks to understand the pressures and dynamics shaping unregulated cultivation and the factors driving (non) compliance. Such an assessment is critical for accurately understanding the factors driving unregulated cultivation, informing policy solutions that increase regulatory participation, and assisting in establishing an effective regulatory system.

Background: Many cannabis cultivators remain outside California’s newly-established regulatory system. Recent research shows this is not because of lack of motivation, but rather barriers to entry. What has been the effect of legalization on these farmers? We investigate this question through ethnographic design, which entails building trusting relations and sustained interactions to produce reliable ground-level assessments of hard-to-reach populations. Led by two human geographers and an anthropologist with research experience and expertise in cannabis, illegal markets, environment and rural change, we seek undergraduates to assist with initial stages of research on selected field sites.


Tasks: 1) Initial background research on political, economic, and social dynamics in several target areas: California’s North Coast (Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity counties); Sierra Nevada Foothills (Butte, Yuba, Nevada, Placer, Sierra, El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties); and the Inland Empire (Riverside, San Bernardino counties). 2) scan, catalogue, code policy documents, news articles, law enforcement documents, advocacy papers, and related sources to map out specific issues in selected counties (e.g. cannabis policy, criminal cases, etc). 3) Mapping of key stakeholders to establish initial points of contact for research. 4) summarize findings in briefs; 5) Meet periodically with investigators for updates and new instructions.

Outcome: organized, coded catalogue of information on select jurisdictions. This will enable the Investigators to plan and begin in-person research in 2022.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Michael Polson, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: The student must have: 1) basic internet and database research skills; 2) good writing skills; 3) an ability to write effective summaries; 4) good communication skills to coordinate with and consistently report back to the investigators; 5) comfort with independent research. Prior experience in coding information (applying codes to enhance searchability and categorization) and/or coding platforms welcome. Fluency in policy or cannabis matters would be helpful, though not necessary. Project may be suited for those in anthropology, geography, sociology, political science, political ecology, or political economy but is open to all.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: https://crc.berkeley.edu/about/people/michael-polson/
Related website: https://crc.berkeley.edu/science-briefs/