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Legalizing marijuana is a tactic of neoliberal governmentality that places the onus on individuals to govern themselves while the government sits back and makes sure that they’re doing it right – this increases state control through regulatory mechanisms while minimizing its perception

O’Brien 2013 - University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (February 25, Patrick, “Medical Marijuana and Social Control: Escaping Criminalization and Embracing Medicalization” Deviant Behavior, 34: 423–443, Taylor & Francis)

A latent outcome of this legal-medical system has been its adaptation to the new criminologies evidenced in late modern society (Garland 1996, 2001). The medicalization of cannabis has defined deviance down significantly (Moynihan 1993) and effectively reduced the demands placed on the State’s criminal justice agencies. At the same time, the State has increasingly embedded social controls into the fabric of society, rather than inserting them from above in the form of sovereign command (Garland 2001). Medical dispensary owners, cultivators, investors, and employees, along with local politicians and affiliated business owners, have remained bound to State laws and policies, but have also been expected to proctor themselves while government powers watch at a distance for a breakdown in control. The State has conceded that it is unable to manage the illicit marijuana market alone and has redirected its control efforts away from the sole authority of the police, the courts, and the prisons. The dispensary industry has provided the State a situation in which it governs, but does not coercively control marijuana and its users. Instead, the State manages the drug through the actors involved in the legal-medical industry, and has effectively mandated them as active partners in sustaining and enforcing the formal and informal controls of the dispensary system. The State controls at an ostensibly distant fashion, but it has not resigned its power. On the contrary, it has retained its traditional command over the police and the prisons while expanding its efficiency and capacity to control marijuana and its users. This new reality in crime control has stratified itself across all facets of society, including its structural, cultural, and interactional dimensions. At the structural level, the legal-medical model has reduced the strain of a substantial segment of society by institutionalizing acceptable and lawful means of accessing marijuana, effectively shifting this population into an ecological position where they can be watched and controlled. The groups once involved in the illicit market have become visible, and the laws that govern the use, distribution, and production of cannabis have actually become enforceable by the State. Marijuana users have become patients, requiring a physician’s recommendation to con sume the drug lawfully. The State has mandated what medical conditions warrant a registry card, monitoring people through licensing applications, doctors’ files, government paperwork, and the medical marijuana registry. Dispensary owners have been required to grow 70%of their own product, to provide live 24-hour surveillance camera feeds of their cultivation and distribution warehouses, and to subject themselves to periodic inspection. Dispensary owners and employees have been fingerprinted and undergone extensive background checks, and marijuana businesses only operate in State zoned locations. By amassing knowledge about the social organization of the marijuana industry and its users, the government has engaged in monitoring, aggregating, and transmitting such information to law enforcement and the public. At the cultural level, the legal-medical system has provided a greater degree of social order, stability, and integration by relocating marijuana users into the fold of conventional norms and values. Cultural cohesion and conformity have been fostered through legitimate business opera tions that cater to conventional lifestyles and work hours, that quell concerns over safety and lawfulness, and reduce the alienation of a subculture of users. The State has effectively aligned a once criminal population of people with dominant ideals of normality (Goffman 1983) and dismantled a framework of deviant organization (Best and Luckenbill 1982) with distinct ideol ogies and norms concerning marijuana sales and use. The government has incorporated the norms and values of conventional society into the processes of distributing and using cannabis, and now assists in controlling marijuana through the cultural transmission (Shaw and McKay 1972) of rituals and sanctions now aligned with the normative social order. Both of these macro- and meso-level shifts have augmented State control of marijuana and its users at an interactional level. These structural and cultural changes have directly influenced micro-level processes and mediated people’s differential associations and social learning processes (Akers 2000; Sutherland 1949; Sutherland and Cressey 1955) as users have been increasingly socialized into a conventional drug lifestyle. Marijuana users in the dispensary sys tem have decreased their contacts with deviant others and increased their contacts with legitimate associations by purchasing lawfully from licensed distributors. Dispensary owners have come to interact with banks, contractors, real estate firms, tax specialists, and lawyers because they exist in legitimate occupational associations and lawful community relations. This legal-medical model has allowed the State to further monitor interactional processes through receipts, taxes, and video surveillance. This continuous supervision has led to growing discipline and normal ization. The State has prescribed conforming modes of conduct upon marijuana users with new found power (Foucault 1975). Zoning laws have mandated where transactions occur, distribution laws have defined how much can be purchased, and monitored business hours have controlled the time sales occur. The State has also strengthened individual bonds to society (Hirschi 1969) as a medical license protects users’ conventional investments (i.e., education, career, and family) and caters to their time-consuming activities as they have decided the time, speed, and location of their purchases. Finally, State medicalization of marijuana has prompted people to endorse society’s rules as progressively more politically and morally correct, since users are typically critical of cannabis prohibition. This legal-medical system has also accommodated the ideals of neoliberalism. Through the adaptive strategy of responsibilization (Garland 2001), the penalization strategies (i.e., control mechanisms) regulating marijuana have become increasingly privatized, operating through civil society. For example, although the State has demanded 24-hour video surveillance over dispensary operations, it has also required these businesses to regulate their own marijuana production and distribution, monitor their own employees and financial accounts, and direct their own branding and promotional campaigns. Furthermore, by defining deviance down, marijuana has become legally sold through privately owned dispensaries. In neoliberal fashion, marijuana has been deregulated for capital gain.

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