Recent scholarship has emphasized the need to develop a polymorphic conceptualization of the regulatory state. This article contributes to this theory-building project by outlining a research agenda for exploring the symbiotic interactions and tensions between the regulatory and carceral morphs of the state. Using the case study of cannabis legalization reforms in the United States, we argue that the legitimation deficits of the carceral state stimulate the proliferation of new regulatory frameworks for governing social problems that were traditionally handled by the criminal justice system. We demonstrate how the polymorphic approach illuminates the ways in which the regulatory and carceral morphs of the state compete for influence over shared policy domains, but also complement and reinforce one another. Thus, rather than precipitating the demise of the carceral state, cannabis legalization reforms sustain a bifurcated governance structure perpetuating long-standing patterns of using drug law as a means for racialized social control.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions and Guy Markovich for his excellent research assistance. The research was funded by a grant of the Israeli Science Foundation (Grant # 2086/19).
© 2021 The Authors. Regulation & Governance published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd
- cannabis legalization
- carceral state
- drug policy
- regulatory state
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Public Administration