Compassionate Cannabis, Consumptive Cities: Remaking Value in Global Los Angeles

Authors: Robert Chlala*, University of Southern California
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Labor, Urban Development, Care, Race, Gender,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Napoleon A2, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The legal, often punitive architecture of drug prohibition around marijuana is taking a new turn – and the city is a central site in this rapid, contradictory and tense process. This paper will present new research on questions of use and exchange value, care and market ethos and their ties to state and market power in the global city – by examining recent processes of marijuana legalization in global Los Angeles In particular, I utilize 4 years of ethnographic data gathered alongside small business owners, workers and advocates in Los Angeles' medical cannabis industry - the largest in the globe.I highlight how spatial and urban arrangements have been a critical axis of owners and workers everyday and political struggles – from negotiating ever-changing zoning laws to facing neighborhood groups concerned with producing a particular sanitized, rent-producing) version of the city. Such urban processes entwine with the continued ramifications of (and ideological representations defining) the racialized and gendered U.S. “drug war." For those in this precarious economic and social position, an ethos of care becomes a central means to demonstrate use value - and future market profits for wary urban officials and potential investors. At the same time, workers and owners alike make meaning and confront the continual policing of their work-spaces through these care experiences and narratives. I suggest from this data the importance of integrating an affective understanding of labor and economic life in grasping the reproduction of economic value and the contesting of urban development.

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