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Breaking the law for the greater good? Core-stigmatized Organizations and Medical Cannabis Dispensaries in Canada

Tue, August 15, 8:30 to 9:30am, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 520A

Abstract

A growing body of literature has attempted to depict the ways in which organizational actors account for a tainted image which stems from the core of their operations and is based on negative evaluation of "who is it, what it does, and whom they serve" (Hudson, 2008: 253). This project builds on this literature by focusing on contentious illegal organizations, medical cannabis dispensaries (MCDs), in Canada as its case study (cf e.g., (Wolfe and Blithe, 2015; Hudson & Okhuysen, 2009). As community-based organizations that have existed since the late 1990s in Canada distributing cannabis to individuals with a medical diagnosis, I investigate how they are able to survive without mainstream support or formal legal protections. I draw on 31 in-depth qualitative interviews with owners and operators of medical cannabis dispensaries across British Columbia and Ontario to demonstrate that medical cannabis dispensaries, as core-stigmatized organizations, engage in a mix of hiding and challenging strategies to ensure their survival and to counter negative perceptions of their organizations. These strategies are a result of mimicking the strategies of older, well-established cannabis dispensaries in their field. The idea that MCDs use similar techniques across organizations can help us to further understand how core-stigmatized organizations, particularly those which are community based and centered on harm reduction, understand the organization itself, and how it survives as part of the wider landscape in which it sits.

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