Congratulations to Jenna Valleriani, postdoc researcher at BC Centre on Substance Use

January 9, 2018 by Sherri Klassen

Congratulations to Jenna Valleriani who will begin a postdoctoral research position at the British Columbia Centre On Substance Use (BCCSU) in January 2018. Jenna defended her dissertation,  ‘Staking a Claim’: Legal and Illegal Cannabis Markets in Canada, in December under the supervision of  Candace Kruttschnitt, Patricia Erickson and Ronit Dinovitzer. The thesis abstract is as follows:

Dissertation Abstract

This study explores the emergence of the legal medical cannabis market in Canada and examines its impact on the wider medical cannabis market. The growing research investigating entrepreneurship and emerging markets have often failed to consider the identity narratives of the entrepreneurs across legal and illegal spaces and the importance of contextual influences, including wider social and political contexts. Drawing on a case study of cannabis entrepreneurs from illicit Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) and legal Licensed Producers (LPs), I use 63 in-depth interviews, fieldwork, and primary and secondary sources, to provide a detailed account of the new industry’s emergence in 2014, which challenged an existing model of medical cannabis access. I explore the emergence of that market on a number of levels. In the first paper, I describe the rich history of medical cannabis access in Canada and the central role of MCDs in that process. By using the policy window framework to analyze two local-level responses to MCDs, I highlight the theoretical utility of using this approach to examine local-level drug policy initiatives and reform. The second paper investigates how MCDs have survived in Canada for two decades without legal or mainstream public support as “core-stigmatized” organizations. By looking at the strategies MCDs employ to buffer stigma, share knowledge informally across organizations, and shelter themselves from police enforcement, I demonstrate how, compared to legal core-stigmatized organizations, MCDs must also navigate a host of legal risks because of their illicit status, which is tied to the source of their core stigma. In the third paper, I center on the experiences and narratives of the key players from both MCDs and LPs. I examine how these entrepreneurs understand and respond to the competitive landscape and draw on boundary work to claim jurisdiction over the medical cannabis market. Taken as a whole, I shift attention away from a moral assessment of the good itself (cannabis) and focus on the “practice of trade” (Anteby 2015). I also strive to highlight the complex nature of medical cannabis access in Canada and how wider social, historical and political contexts matter to the landscape as it exists today. Finally, I bring the entrepreneurs’ experiences to the forefront. In particular, MCDs are often dismissed in larger debates because of their illicit status. Important policy implications for non-medical
cannabis legalization and drug policy in Canada are also discussed, providing insight into the market.

At the BC Centre on Substance Use, Jenna will study the use of cannabis as a substitution for other illicit drugs among people who use drugs, along with other ongoing projects looking at opioid-related overdose and related interventions and treatment interventions for opioid and stimulant use. Jenna is also working with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy as the lead researcher on a cannabis and youth education project as Canada moves towards cannabis legalization in 2018.