Towards a Minor Cannabis Literature I


"Cannabis Politics Out of the Shadows"
“Cannabis Politics Out of the Shadows”

Photo by unknown, from February 2014 talk at the University of Arizona Department of Geography

by Dr. Dominic Corva, Executive Director

Lately I’ve had occasion to consider what a cannabis curriculum might look like. Although the occasion requires more “thinking like a trade school” than thinking like a popular educator, I want to start a series of posts dedicated to the consideration of the latter.

While have had the opportunity both at the University of Washington and at Sarah Lawrence College to develop elements of a curricular cannabis literature, events have conspired to significantly broaden the scope of such consideration.  What should people read to gain a foundational understanding of the place of cannabis in society?

This kind of question is belongs to a population of questions that make up what Western educators call the liberal arts tradition. That tradition nominally stands for the development of the human capacity to answer questions by situating the human condition in an historical (and geographical) contexts. The literatures that populate those contexts are, again nominally, subject to peer-informed debate and evolution. Academic institutions have distinct sets of literatures that constitute a “core curriculum” for their educational subjects. These vary across time and space, but not that much: Sociology 101 courses always are going to involve Max Weber, for example. Econ 101, in the U.S., Adam Smith and David Ricardo. In the U.K. Karl Marx would be paired with Smith and Ricardo.

I’m not trying to do that for Cannabis Studies (just invented that, I think). Rather, I want to think in terms of 1. information credibility 2. information that develops critical thinking not just content upload and 3. information communicability. Let’s mis-appropriate Deleuze and Guattari here to play with the relationship between major and minor. I want a Minor Literature for Cannabis, as opposed to a literature in demand as or in service of Authority, which would be a Major Literature.

Number 1 is easy for me to deal with methodologically, as I get the luxury of deciding unilaterally, at first, which authors or texts are most credible, according to my standards. I will need to work on those standards but let’s try a few out in no particular order, brainstorm-fashion:

Credibility: Authors (the Peer Review question) and Texts

Do I know this person/text and have I seen them work/successfully used them to work

Do people I trust (eg., Dr. Sunil Aggarwal) know this person/text and have they seen them work/successfully used them to work

Credibility: Texts

Publication context — who by, with what explicit political agenda?

Theoretical influences — how are the arguments framed and with help from what prior literatures/conversation?

Methodological transparency (my favorite, you see me try to do on the web site with varying degrees of success)

Credibility and Critical Thinking 

Evidence quality is a relative concern: I’m much more interested in transparency with respect to evidence quality. All evidence is suspect, for the critical thinker. All hypotheses are subject to falsification, including popular hypotheses that have settled into the fabulous garment of Received Wisdom.

To falsify a hypothesis takes methodological rigor but this happens in a Political Context, so some Social Problems are more resistant to professional inquiry than others. This is especially true for cannabis.

In fact, because of this a Minor Cannabis Literature has to constantly deal with Drug War Politics, in an historical and recurring fashion.

Therefore, some candidates for Minor Cannabis Literature don’t deal with cannabis explicitly, at all. Eg.: Michel Foucault’s Society Must Be Defended, or Erving Goffman’s Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity.

The Proper Subjects of a Minor Cannabis Literature are relations of power in society through which human-cannabis relationships are defined, produced and managed.


Do they have a clear focus/thesis statement/statement of purpose?

Are they accessible — that is, can different publics understand that they are being spoken to for a reason that matters to them?

I need to get on with my day. Next up will be a consideration of specific Minor cannabis Literature candidates in future posts, informed by the criteria of this brainstorm.

For now, if you are interested, you could start here. Explanation and link to actual document below the image.


It’s my publication “Requiem for a CAMP,” published a few years ago now in the International Journal of Drug Policy, a journal that apparently ranks 5th out of 34 possible “substance abuse” journals according to Elsevier’s advertising widget. How does it rank with Policy journals? I have no idea, but probably not very high because it’s a journal that labors on the radical edges of drug policy. And by “radical edge” I mean tends to produce content that is highly critical of the drug war, by publishing literatures that share an interest in harm reduction — political, economic, cultural, biophysical, and other kinds of societal harm.

Feel free to email me recommendations of texts for consideration. I also welcome any efforts to write about your recommendations, and if they match the mission of this post and its criteria I would be happy to publish them.






2 thoughts on “Towards a Minor Cannabis Literature I

  1. Thank you for your work towards elevating the discourse on cannabis. As you’re aware, most of the experience and innovations in the cannabis field have come from people with non-scientific backgrounds. Combining that with the absence of legitimate research institutions and it is easy to see why this information needs to be aggregated.

    I’d recommend The Journal of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines – – The article “Cannabis Oil: chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis-based medicine” has a very interesting analysis of different means of oil extraction and the relative quality of each. I would also assume that the review of cannabanoid research from ’05-09 could be of value.

    1. thank you Josh! I will work those recommendations in for sure, just did a basic book list and will expand and refine the approach.

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