Michael Polson
Associate Research Scientist
UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
Photo of Michael Polson
Michael is the Director of the Berkeley Cannabis Research Center. He studies the changing political economies of northern California as marijuana production becomes formal, public, and represented broadly.



Polson, M., Laudati, A., Sayre, N.

An oversupply of cannabis and high regulatory costs results in an unlicensed market. Based on over 150 extended interviews with people involved with cannabis cultivation in three regions of California, this report documents and interprets the persistence and transformation of unlicensed cultivation since legalization.


Getz, C., Petersen-Rockney, M., Polson, M.

After investigating the causes and effects of local cannabis cultivation bans, we recommend policy change.


Polson, M., Bodwitch, H., Corva, D., Getz, C., Laudati, A., Petersen-Rockney, M., Runsten, D., Taylor, K.

Left unaddressed, smaller businesses and farms will likely collapse. Of all actors in the cannabis market, the impacts of this current moment rest most heavily upon smaller producers.


Polson, M., Bodwitch, H., Biber, E., Butsic, V., Grantham, T.

Land Use Policy

There are many barriers to participation in California's regulated cannabis industry. Is there a way to achieve environmental objectives, farmer compliance, and an equitable transition away from illegal markets?


Polson, M., Butsic, V., Dillis, C., de Genova, H., Grantham, T., Herrera, L.R., Hossack, J., Laudati, A., Martin, J.V., Parker-Shames, P., Petersen-Rockney, M., Sorgen, J., Starrs, G.

This report presents multiple pathways for consideration by state and local governments in their efforts to improve cannabis cultivation policy.


Polson, M.

The War on Drugs, a History

Explore how the War on Drugs shaped cannabis cultivation, public opinion and governance in the context of the U.S. versus the globe.


Polson, M.

The Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Cannabis Research

There are shades of gray between cannabis legalization and prohibition. Exploring this gradient illuminates how shifts in power structures impact the social reality of cannabis production and regulation, as observed in California


Bodwitch, H., Polson , M., Biber, E., Hickey, G. M., Butsic, V.

Journal of Rural Studies

Despite legalization, illicit cannabis production continues in California. Surveys reveal that small farmers face outsized burdens to compliance.


Dillis, C., Biber, E., Bodwitch, H., Butsic, V., Carah, J., Parker-Shames, P., Polson, M. and Grantham, T.

Land Use Policy

How has legalization shaped patterns of farm location, size, land ownership, and regulatory compliance in California?


Polsen, M. and Bodwitch, H.

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

Should collective systems of resource sharing developed under cannabis prohibition be explicitly addressed via legalization, policy, and programs?


Polson, M.

Environmental and Planning D: Society and Space

As questions of cannabis legalization arise, exurbs struggle to differentiate the rural and urban.


Polson, M., Petersen-Rockney, M.

California Agriculture

Siskiyou County, and many other counties in California, chose not to recognize cannabis cultivation as agriculture. This ethnographic study reveals the effects on parity in farmer rights and access to resources.


Polson, M.

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

How have environmental concerns become cover for injecting exploitation, inequality and stigma into the policy and regulation of cannabis production?


Polson, M.

In Economy, Crime and Wrong in a Neoliberal Era

Long before legalization, the use and distribution of marijuana was framed in neoliberal market terms.


Polson, M.

The Illicit in the Governance and Development of Cities, Regions, and Networks: Corrupt Places

Explore marijuana’s pivotal role in defining the development of Humboldt County in rural North Coast, California.


Polson, M.

Territory, Politics, Governance

Power shifts in the governance of medical marijuana redefine ‘community’ and territorial production.


Polson, M.

PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

A state-land-finance complex emerges from a changing political economy of marijuana in California.