Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and PhD Graduate Jenna Valleriani on Pardoning Cannabis Related Charges

Jenna VallerianiSociology Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and recent PhD graduate  Jenna Valleriani were recently featured in a blog post on The Leaf, a division of the Winnipeg Free Press dedicated to news on the Cannabis legalization process in Canada. The post discusses the historically harmful implications of marijuana prohibition in Canada for racial minorities, including Black and Indigenous Canadians, and suggests that legal pardons for past criminal charges related to cannabis be implemented within the new legalization policy.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is a professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. His research interests include policing; youth marginalization and exclusion; and race, ethnicity and crime. He is particularly interested in how members of the African Diaspora perceive and experience law enforcement.

Jenna Valleriani is a recent PhD graduate from the University of Toronto Sociology Department. Her dissertation was on ‘Staking a Claim’: Legal and Illegal Cannabis Markets in Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use.

We have posted an excerpt of the blog post below.

Making amends

Cannabis prohibition has hit black and Indigenous people especially hard, researchers say.
Will the Canadian government do something about it?

By: Solomon Israel | Jan. 13, 2018

Cannabis prohibition has been especially harmful to black and Indigenous people in Canada, but legalization offers a chance for the government to repair some of those harms, says a researcher who hopes the federal government will consider racial justice as it enacts its proposed law.

Federal legalization of marijuana “is definitely a positive step, and one that should have happened about 100 years ago,” says Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who studies race and policing as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.

Seeking pardons for cannabis crimes

Owusu-Bempah believes the Canadian government should automatically pardon anyone who has a criminal record for the possession of cannabis, as well as pardoning “any subsequent failure to comply charges that stem from an initial cannabis offence.”

“Cannabis, people say it’s a gateway drug. They’re usually referring to a gateway to harder drugs. I argue that cannabis can be a gateway into the criminal justice system,” he says.

“Cannabis use is fairly widespread amongst young people, across racial groups,” Owusu-Bempah explains. “Certain groups are targeted.”

Even if they get probation, those young people of colour are more likely to face failure to comply charges, “which then leads to further criminalization, and a spiralling into the justice system,” he says.

Are pardons in the cards?

The federal government’s Cannabis Act is “pretty void of any kind of real social justice language,” notes Jenna Valleriani, who serves as a strategic advisor to Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and recently completed a PhD studying legal and illegal markets for cannabis.

Valleriani says the federal government definitely knows how cannabis prohibition has disproportionately impacted marginalized people, citing an April 2017 town hall on cannabis legalization with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted by Vice News.

If the federal government does issue post-legalization pardons to Canadians with criminal convictions for cannabis, they might reap the political benefits. In a July 2017 telephone survey of 5,000 Canadians conducted by Oraclepoll Research, 72 per cent of respondents agreed that the federal government should pardon and eliminate criminal records for all previous and current simple cannabis possessions.

For Owusu-Bempah, pardoning those convicted of cannabis-related crimes would be the most straightforward way for the government to start making amends.


Read the full blog post here.

Congratulations to Jenna Valleriani, postdoc researcher at BC Centre on Substance Use

Jenna VallerianiCongratulations to Jenna Valleriani who will begin a postdoctoral research position at the British Columbia Centre On Substance Use (BCCSU) in January 2018. Jenna defended her dissertation,  ‘Staking a Claim’: Legal and Illegal Cannabis Markets in Canada, in December under the supervision of  Candace Kruttschnitt, Patricia Erickson and Ronit Dinovitzer. The thesis abstract is as follows:

Dissertation Abstract

This study explores the emergence of the legal medical cannabis market in Canada and examines its impact on the wider medical cannabis market. The growing research investigating entrepreneurship and emerging markets have often failed to consider the identity narratives of the entrepreneurs across legal and illegal spaces and the importance of contextual influences, including wider social and political contexts. Drawing on a case study of cannabis entrepreneurs from illicit Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) and legal Licensed Producers (LPs), I use 63 in-depth interviews, fieldwork, and primary and secondary sources, to provide a detailed account of the new industry’s emergence in 2014, which challenged an existing model of medical cannabis access. I explore the emergence of that market on a number of levels. In the first paper, I describe the rich history of medical cannabis access in Canada and the central role of MCDs in that process. By using the policy window framework to analyze two local-level responses to MCDs, I highlight the theoretical utility of using this approach to examine local-level drug policy initiatives and reform. The second paper investigates how MCDs have survived in Canada for two decades without legal or mainstream public support as “core-stigmatized” organizations. By looking at the strategies MCDs employ to buffer stigma, share knowledge informally across organizations, and shelter themselves from police enforcement, I demonstrate how, compared to legal core-stigmatized organizations, MCDs must also navigate a host of legal risks because of their illicit status, which is tied to the source of their core stigma. In the third paper, I center on the experiences and narratives of the key players from both MCDs and LPs. I examine how these entrepreneurs understand and respond to the competitive landscape and draw on boundary work to claim jurisdiction over the medical cannabis market. Taken as a whole, I shift attention away from a moral assessment of the good itself (cannabis) and focus on the “practice of trade” (Anteby 2015). I also strive to highlight the complex nature of medical cannabis access in Canada and how wider social, historical and political contexts matter to the landscape as it exists today. Finally, I bring the entrepreneurs’ experiences to the forefront. In particular, MCDs are often dismissed in larger debates because of their illicit status. Important policy implications for non-medical
cannabis legalization and drug policy in Canada are also discussed, providing insight into the market.

At the BC Centre on Substance Use, Jenna will study the use of cannabis as a substitution for other illicit drugs among people who use drugs, along with other ongoing projects looking at opioid-related overdose and related interventions and treatment interventions for opioid and stimulant use. Jenna is also working with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy as the lead researcher on a cannabis and youth education project as Canada moves towards cannabis legalization in 2018. 

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Jenna Valleriani and Professors Adam Green and Barry Adams, recipients of the Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research

Jenna VallerianiCongratulations to PhD Candidate Jenna Valleriani and Professor Adam Green who received the 2017 Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research from the National Council on Family Relations for their article on marital monogamy. Jenna is currently completing her dissertation, ‘The Green Rush’: Social Movements, Entrepreneurship and the Emerging Medical Cannabis Industry in Canada, supervised by Professor Candace Kruttschnitt. Professor Green is an Associate Professor of sociology at the St. George campus.

We have posted the citation and abstract of their winning article below. The full article is available through the University of Toronto library portal here.

“Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages,” Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(April), 416-430.

Within the sociological literature on intimate life, a detraditionalization thesis outlines a marked shift in the construction of marriage in post‐World War II Western societies, suggesting a growing focus on emotional and sexual satisfaction within the marital dyad (Cherlin, 2004; Giddens, 1992). In this article the authors investigated one aspect of marital relations in light of the detraditionalization thesis: marital monogamy. Drawing from 90 in‐depth interviews with both heterosexual and same‐sex married participants in Canada, they found that the detraditionalization thesis appears to capture best the extension of multicultural norms to abstract ideals about marital monogamy, rather than an actual shift in marital sexual practices, particularly among heterosexual respondents. These data call out for greater attention to both the social mediation of Giddens’s detraditionalization thesis and a more nuanced concept of marital fidelity than a simple binary axis of “monogamous/nonmonogamous” permits.

U of T at the ASA

This year, 22 faculty members and 25 graduate students from Sociology at the University of Toronto are presenting papers at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociology Association in Montreal. In addition to the people presenting papers, a number of our community are also participating as session organizers, discussants or journal editorial panel members. The meetings happen between August 12th and August 15th. We have listed the papers we’re presenting below in the order of their occurrence, with student presenters shown in italics. Note that some of the papers have unlisted co-authors from other universities. Please refer to the ASA Program for complete information.

Saturday, August 12th

Bill Magee, Optimistic Positivity and Pessimistic Negativity Among American Adults: Effects of Birth-Cohort, Age, Gender, and Race

Jaime Nikolaou, Teen Pregnancy and Doula Care: A Space for Feminist Praxis?

Andrew Nevin, Technological Tethering, Cohort Effects, and the Work-Family Interface

Andreea Mogosanu, Historical Change in Gender Differences in Mastery: The Role of Education and Employment

Ioana Sendroiu and Laura Upenieks, Gender ‘In Practice’: Rethinking the Use of Male Practice Players in NCAA Women’s Basketball

Emine Fidan Elcioglu, The State Effect at the Border: Avoiding Totalizing Theories of Political Power in Migration Studies

Paul Pritchard, A Bifurcated Welcome? Examining the Willingness to Include Seasonal Agricultural Workers in the Host Community

Yukiko Tanaka, Managing Risk, Pursuing Opportunities: Immigration, Citizenship, and Security in Canada

Gordon Brett, Feminist Theory and Embodied Cognition: Bridging the Disciplinary Gap

Mitch McGivor, Inequality in Higher Education: Student Debt, Social Background, and Labour Market Outcomes

Sarah Cappeliez, Wine Nerds and Pleasure-seekers: Understanding Wine Taste Formation and Practice

Katelin Albert, Negotiating State Policy in the Improvised Classroom: An Ethnographic Inquiry into Sexual Health Classrooms

Marie-Lise Drappon-Bisson, Tactical Reproduction in the Pro-Choice Movement in Northern Ireland: Alliance for Choice’s Path Towards Successful Tactics

Milos Brocic, Cultivating Conviction or Negotiating Nuance? Assessing the Impact of Associations on Ideological Polarization

Omar Faruque, Neoliberal Development, Privatizing Nature, and Subaltern Resistance in Bangladesh

Sunday, August 13th

Dan Silver, The Political Order of the City: Neighborhoods and Voting in Toronto, 1997-2014

Andreea Mogosanu and Laura Upenieks, Social Change and the Evolution of Gender Differences in Depression: An Age-Cohort Consideration

Markus Schafer, Religious Attendance Heterogamy and Partnership Quality in Later Life

Atsushi Narisada, Buffering-Resource or Status-Disconfirmation? How Socioeconomic Status Shapes the Relationship between Perceived Under-Reward and Distress

Josee Johnston, On (not) Knowing Where Your Food Comes From: Children, Meat, and Ethical Eating

Ann Mullen, Labored Meanings: Contemporary Artists and the Process and Problems of Producing Artistic Meaning

Lawrence Williams, Dilemmas: Where No Schema Has Gone Before

Patricia Landolt, How Does Multicultural Canada’s Ethnicizing Imperative Shape Latin American Political Incorporation?

Merin Oleschuk, Consuming the Family Meal: News Media Constructions of Home Cooking and Health

Sarah Shah, The Context of Birth Country Gender Inequality on Mental Health Outcomes of Intimate Partner Violence

Louise Birsell-Bauer, Precarious Professionals: Gender Relations in the Academic Profession and the Feminization of Employment Norms

Geoff Wodtke, Regression-based Adjustment for Time-varying Confounders

Monday, August 14th

Markus Schafer, The Role of Health in Late Life Social Inclusion and Exclusion

Kim Pernell, Institutionalized Meaning and Policymaking: Revisiting the Causes of American Financial Deregulation

Cynthia Guzman, Revisiting the Feminist Theory of the State

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Policing Race, Moral Panic and the Growth of Black Prisoners in Canada

David Pettinicchio, Beyond Employment Inequality: Wealth Disparities by Disability Status in Canada and the United States

Yangsook Kim, Good Care in the Elderly Care Sector of South Korea: Gendered Immigration and Ethnic Boundaries

Ioana Sendroiu and Ron Levi, Legality and Exclusion: Discrimination, Legal Cynicism and System Avoidance across the European Roma Experience

Lawrence Williams, Bounded Reflexivity: How Expectations Shape Careers

Irene Boeckmann, Contested Hegemony: Fatherhood Wage Effects across Two U.S. Birth Cohorts

Jennifer Chun and Cynthia Cranford, Becoming Homecare Workers: Chinese Immigrant Women in California’s Oakland Chinatown

Katelin Albert and Steve G. Hoffman, Undone Science and Canadian Health Research

Ronit Dinovitzer, The New Place of Corporate Law Firms in the Structuring of Elite Legal Careers

Melissa Milkie and Scott Schieman, Who Helps with the Homework? Inequity in Parenting Responsibilities and Relationship Quality among Employed Parents

Matthew Parbst, The Impact of Public Opinion on Policy in Cross-National Perspective

Tony Zhang, The Princelings in China: How Do They Benefit from their Red Parents?

Rania Salem, Structural Accommodations of Classic Patriarchy: Women and Workplace Gender Segregation in Qatar

Tuesday, August 15th

Patricia Louie and Blair Wheaton, Revisiting the Black-White Paradox in Mental Disorder in Three Cohorts of Black and White Americans

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

Martin Lukk, What Kind of Writing is Sociology? Literary Form and Theoretical Integration in the Human Sciences

Jerry Flores, Gender on the Run: Wanted Latinas in a southern California Barrio

Jean-Francois Nault, Determinants of Linguistic Retention: The Case of Ontario’s Francophone Official-Language Minorities

Luisa Farah Schwartzmann, Color Violence, Deadly Geographies and the Meanings of “Race” in Brazil

Jonathan Koltai and Scott Schieman, Financial Strain, Mastery, and Psychological Distress: A Comment on Spuriousness in the Stress Process




Prohibit marijuana for Canadians under 25? How about a hit of reality

Jenna2Jenna Valleriani is a PhD candidate in Sociology and the Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies. Her research looks at social movements, entrepeurship and the emergence of new industries. Her dissertation is titled, “ ‘The Green Rush’: Social Movements, Entrepreneurship and the Emerging Medical Cannabis Industry in Canada. Jenna recently published an Op Ed in the Globe and Mail discussing the proposed age restrictions on legal access to marijuana. The piece appeared on Thursday, June 30, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Prohibit marijuana for Canadians under 25? How about a hit of reality

The federal government announced Thursday that it would create a task force to handle marijuana legalization. Led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, the task force will feature nine individuals with varying expertise. In the announcement, Health Minister Jane Philpott declared the legalization of cannabis will be “comprehensive and evidence-based”, and yet in the same breath, reminded Canadians “marijuana has negative effects on young brains and brain development in adolescence”.

What Dr. Philpott didn’t acknowledge is that this body of scientific evidence is still being debated in the scientific literature: it’s incomplete and has never actually established that marijuana is the cause in these outcomes of cognitive deficiency. We have also never established what the actual duration of that impairment may be.

Meanwhile, the protecting youth argument has become the cornerstone of what responsible and restrictive legal cannabis access will look like. However, under the guise of trying to protect young people, history illustrates we often end up criminalizing and victimizing them even further. The reiteration of this “concrete evidence” has led some to debate whether cannabis should follow provincial drinking ages, or if access should only be afforded to those who are 25 years of age and older.

Continue reading the article…

P2P: Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Green, A. I., Valleriani, J. and Adam, B. (2015), Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12277

Jenna2 Jenna was a Master’s student when she began working with Professor Adam Green as a Research Assistant on his SSHRC-funded project studying how heterosexual and same-sex spouses conceive of and structure their marriages. The next year, when she enrolled in the research practicum, she asked Professor Green if she could work with this marriage data, and if he would advise her on the project. She had already learned some of the skills she would need while she was a Research Assistant but the practicum honed the skills further. Professor Green agreed and they began what would become a three-year odyssey exploring the changing meanings of marriage and monogamy. The resulting paper was published in December 2015 in Journal of Marriage and Family.

The paper, drawing on 90 qualitative interviews with heterosexual and same-sex spouses, focuses on Giddens’ 1992 detraditionalization thesis which argues that marriage is increasingly characterized by goals of individual satisfaction and mutually-fulfilling partnerships. They found that heterosexual couples speak to a widening acceptance of diverse marital lifestyles, but have not changed their personal preferences regarding their own relationships. Of all married respondents in this study, gay men’s relationships embody most what is described in the detraditionalization thesis. While a minority of these men were committed both in the abstract and in practice to marital monogamy, the majority understood monogamy in reflexive and plastic terms, not as an ethical choice but as a flexible, pragmatic arrangement designed to suit the needs and wishes of the partners.

While the general contours of the paper were established in the course of the practicum, Jenna says that it still needed a lot of work when the practicum finished. After taking a short break from the paper, she and Professor Green began to loosely brainstorm about the findings via email, which ultimately led to them reshaping the findings and discussion collaboratively. Jenna says that it was a slow process, but that through a series of meetings and emails, it started to come together. Having learned that the Journal of Family and Marriage was looking to incorporate more qualitative studies, they decided to submit there. Their first submission came back with a request for major revisions. Jenna and Professor Green then worked more and made the paper stronger. When they resubmitted for the second time, it came back with a request for minor revisions, and later, was finally accepted!

Throughout the practicum process, Jenna says, there were many times she “had to go ‘back to the drawing board’ with encouragement from my peers, professors, and advisor, but it ultimately was an unparalleled experience which taught me practical skills I can carry forward.” While the content isn’t her current area of focus, Jenna’s experience working with Professor Green’s marriage project was, she says, extremely beneficial and helped her develop her methodology and qualitative research skills. This has been useful in her current dissertation studies where she has conducted 60 in-depth interviews to understand the issues surrounding the regulation of medical marijuana. Jenna says that the practicum process was also instrumental in teaching her how to structure an article, how to contextualize the findings, the review process and also how different audiences may receive an article.

Giddens, A. (1992). The Transformation of Intimacy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Ph.D. Candidate Jenna Valleriani writes on Medical Marijuana

Jenna Valleriani, PhD Candidate in Sociology and the Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies, regularly contributes to Lift: Canabis News Magazine. Her research looks at social movements, entrepreneurship and the emergence of new industries, focusing on the transition to the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation in Canada. In this article, Jenna reviews the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington DC.

Canada is well represented at the semi-annual drug policy event.

Over 1,400 researchers, activists, students, patients, harm reductionists, drug users, organizations, policy makers and politicians gathered last weekend in Washington D.C for the International Drug Policy Reform Conference hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

From November 18 – 21st, people from all over the world discussed, debated and engaged in topics from psychedelic research, to the prescription pill panic, to cannabis regulation, reflecting a diverse movement with various interests. Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the DPA, framed wider drug policy reform as a movement about freedom and liberty – and positioned cannabis regulation as central to that movement.

Each breakout session had various panels focused on cannabis and regulation around the world, covering topics such as challenges to marijuana legalization, diversity and equity in the marijuana industry, drug prevention in the age of marijuana legalization, and cannabis regulation from around the world.

With panelists such as Florencia Lemos, co-founder of the CLUC Cannabis Club in Uruguay, Vicki Hansen, a PhD Candidate from the University of the West Indies, and Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst from Transform Drug Policy in the UK – just to name a few – there were certainly a variety of voices at the table. Read the rest of the article