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Cannabis capitalism: the transnational corporations' exploitation of Latin America

Grant number: 24/00190-9
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: May 01, 2024 - April 30, 2026
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Political Science - International Politics
Principal Investigator:Paulo José dos Reis Pereira
Grantee:Paulo José dos Reis Pereira
Host Institution: Faculdade de Ciências Sociais. Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers: Kojo Koram ; Manuela Trindade Viana ; Priscila Villela ; Robert Chlala


Cannabis, a psychoactive plant proscribed by the international drug control system throughout the 20th century, has become a legal commodity in several countries and federative entities, mainly on the American continent, whether for industrial, medicinal, or even recreational purposes. This change in the legal status of cannabis has led to the emergence of a billion-dollar international market. Such capitalist interest can be defined by the term "cannabis capitalism", a process of commercialization of cannabis that promotes the creation of new social spaces for its production, commercialization, and consumption, in addition to the emergence of new actors with particular interests. Corporations that sell various cannabis products, many of them structured in countries in the Global North, such as the United States and Canada, but with transnational operations, are fundamental actors in this new social space. They have a common orientation to maximize their profits. To this end, they put into practice various mechanisms already used in other market contexts (alcohol, tobacco), to influence the regulatory process in favor of their commercial expansion objectives. Despite its relevance, few studies analyze its characteristics and activities in this emerging international market. Taking this into account, the general objective of this project is to understand the process of corporatization of cannabis internationally and its impacts in the Latin American context. The specific objectives of the project are:*identify the main transnational corporate actors in this new market, their characteristics, functions, and connections.*understand how these actors are regionally influencing the cannabis regulatory process and guiding its evolution.*Elucidate the social impacts caused by the capture of traditionally clandestine cannabis markets, especially in poor, rural, and historically marginalized communities.The focus of the research will be the evolution of this process in Latin America, with emphasis on Brazil, Colombia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Jamaica. Except for Brazil, chosen for its regional relevance and the importance of contributing to the debate on the topic in the research host country, the others have recent regulations that make them centers of attraction for transnational corporations and fundamental hubs in the new market.For this analysis, I use as a reference the concept of transnational capitalist class, based on the notion of historical materialism in international relations. We hypothesize that the advancement of cannabis regulations with a pro-profit orientation encourages the emergence of large corporations. They compete in the market but build a common path of national and transnational capitalist exploitation that undermines interests arising from civil society actors related to social and environmental justice.We opted for a research design focused on a qualitative approach. We will use the "process tracking" methodology to identify the evolution of these actors and how they structure a network that operates the new cannabis market in Latin America. This method allows us to understand the basic aspects of the mechanisms of social change over time, providing parameters for the investigation of one or more cases. The analysis seeks to build causal inferences that critically dialogue with the literature. We expect to identify corporate actors, their connections, and their relevance in the new emerging cannabis market that articulates the interests of economic elites from countries in the global North and South.This project is in dialogue with the initiative to create a Global Network on Emerging Drug Markets, financed by the Open Society Foundations in 2023, one of whose coordinators is the proponent with two other foreign researchers, Kojo Koram (U. London) and Robert Chlala (UCLA). It is also linked to the CNPq Research Productivity Grant obtained by the proponent in 2023. (AU)

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