Making residential cannabis growing operations actionable: a critical policy analysis

Connie Carter
International Journal on Drug Policy 2009, 20 (4): 371-6

BACKGROUND: In 2006, the British Columbia (BC) government passed amendments to its Safety Standards Act. These amendments permit the routine disclosure of electrical usage information from electrical producers to BC's municipalities, ostensibly to identify and eradicate residential cannabis growing operations (grow ops). These amendments originated in a pilot project in Surrey, BC, known as the electrical and fire safety inspection initiative (EFSI), which drew together police, firefighters and others, to identify grow ops through the process of municipal electrical inspections.

METHODS: This paper draws on narrative analysis to critically explore how the report of the EFSI Surrey pilot project uses a series of linked claims to generate interpretative change in the definition of the problem of grow ops. This analysis also shows how claims about grow ops are constructed and gain their potency through links with other social problems, persons, and practices.

RESULTS: Though the report of the EFSI project is a prohibitionist text replete with stock characters and themes from the history of Canadian drug policy, the problem of residential cannabis cultivation is made actionable by establishing grow operators as "superdeviants" constructed both as dangerous outsiders and as risks to a host of public safety concerns. These claims are then linked to the notion of an overwhelmed criminal justice system that establishes a "crisis" that justifies extraordinary methods of social control outside the due process of the criminal justice system.

CONCLUSIONS: Construction of all cannabis cultivators as "dangerous" disavows other possibilities and shores up neo-liberal practices of government that draw on multi-partner initiatives to implement extraordinary methods of social control not necessarily subject to public accountability.

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