Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Thomas M. Keck


Medical marijuana, Controlled Substance Act of 1970

Subject Categories

Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Political Science | Public Policy


Over the course of the last two decades, organizations representing the medical marijuana social movement have campaigned for, proposed state level legislation, and supported numerous legal arguments that challenge and attempt to reform U.S. federal illicit substance policies. This set of social regulatory policies, commonly known as the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 (CSA), were drafted, promoted, and implemented by the Nixon Administration then subsequently entrenched by multiple presidents with acquiescent congresses adopting supplemental supply-side resource allocating legislation. My dissertation research uncoils the convoluted history and institutional dynamics of path dependent U.S. illegal drug control policies to answer the question of how social movement organizations (SMOs) challenge and reform executively entrenched policies. First, I examine the Nixon Administration's decision-making process via archival materials in order to understand why and how the CSA was "framed," introduced, and ratified. Second, two presidential illicit substance control case studies (Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) are presented to demonstrate how U.S. illicit substance control is executively entrenched. Third, periodical challenges prior to the first state-level medical marijuana law are presented as antecedent and instructional to contemporary SMO institutional mobilization. Last, through interviews, media portrayals, and institutional rulings I demonstrate how medical marijuana SMOs have "reframed" the drug's definition then "shopped" institutional venues for the purpose of reforming existing policies.


Open Access