Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Mullins, Christopher


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OFBrett Lacey, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, presented on March 26, 2021, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: LEGALIZATION EFFECTS ON ILLEGAL MULTI-STATE CANNABIS DISTRIBUTION NETWORKS MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Christopher W. Mullins Although a broad and detailed history of illegal cannabis trafficking networks exist, it remains a relatively understudied group in the current legal context. Prior research has been limited in three crucial aspects: it has been geographically limited to single states or jurisdictions, studies have been limited to examining one role while mentioning others only peripherally, and the majority of earlier similar studies were conducted from the 1980s through 2000s. It is unclear whether these findings represent current black market actors in the cannabis industry. This study will attempt to address these temporal, legal, and geographical gaps in empirical research through conducting in depth semi-structured interviews with 36 active illicit cannabis traffickers from California, Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon. Overall, it addresses how illegal cannabis distribution networks operate across varying roles, their decision making processes regarding legality, the processes involved in shipping or mailing cannabis, and the corresponding monetary system involved with conducting transactions without physical interaction. Overall findings mirrored prior research in that the black market of cannabis will persist and continue to flourish in the current legalization context. However, findings also indicated that black market actors are highly adept to adapting to policy, possess considerable business acumen, and detailed an entire system of trafficking and associated monetary system rarely mentioned previously. To theoretically contextualize this research, this study utilized institutional anomie theory, organizational adaptation theory, and rational choice theory.




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