Prohibition, Legalization, and Political Consumerism: Insights from the US and Canadian Cannabis Markets
By Elizabeth Bennett
Cannabis (marijuana) is the most commonly consumed, universally produced, and frequently trafficked psychoactive substance prohibited under international drug control laws. Yet, several countries have recently moved toward legalization. In these places, the legal status of cannabis is complex, especially because illegal markets persist. This chapter explores the ways in which a sector’s legal status interacts with political consumerism. The analysis draws on a case study of political consumerism in the US and Canadian cannabis markets over the past two decades, as both countries moved toward legalization. It finds that the goals, tactics, and leadership of political consumerism activities changed as the sector’s legal status shifted. It suggests that prohibition, semi-legalization, and new legality may present special challenges to political consumerism, such as silencing producers, confusing consumers, deterring social movement organizations, and discouraging discourse about ethical issues. The chapter concludes that political consumerism and legal status may have deep import for one another.