For years, cannabis has been and continues to be widely consumed in Switzerland amongst persons of all ages and milieux. While existing research has predominantly dealt with the question of how to reduce problematic cannabis use, the non-problematic use of cannabis and use that is well integrated into everyday life have hardly been studied. However, robust insights into these forms of use are currently of particular relevance, as steps towards a new regulation of Cannabis in Switzerland are taken; this entails, in the near future, so-called ‘pilot trials’ to study non-medical cannabis use. This research project aims to contribute insights into this everyday reality.
The main purpose of the project consists of an empirical description and analysis of non-problematic forms of cannabis use that are well integrated into everyday life. This research focus is part of an international research field that emerged in the wake of the destigmatization and liberalization of cannabis use in the North American context, emphasizing an investigation of cannabis that is not based on assumptions that problematize cannabis use per definition. Rather, the emphasis shifts towards an empirical study of the diverse ways of how cannabis is used in a competent manner and how it becomes a meaningful part of everyday life. This new empirical focus goes along with an epistemological and theoretical reconceptualization of cannabis at the intersection of biology and sociology.
In Switzerland, there is hardly any empirical social science research that does not problematize the use of cannabis per definition, despite a broad, diverse and differentiated cultural repertoire of non-problematic cannabis use having come into existence, shaped by the tensions between an increasingly widespread social acceptance of cannabis use and the illegal status of cannabis. Thematized in popular culture and politics, these forms of cannabis consumption are largely an unexplored reality.
The main aim of this research project consists, firstly, of a systematic description of the different forms of cannabis use and the related motivations to use cannabis. Methodologically, the project is conceived as qualitative social research that investigates – using in-depth interviews and participant observation – three settings: the setting of consumption (where, how and with whom people use cannabis), the setting of thematization (when, with whom and how do persons discursively thematize their use), and the setting of acquiring cannabis (how do people buy or self-produce cannabis, and what is relevant to them in this regard). Secondly, the diverse range of ways in which users are making cannabis part of their everyday life and the corresponding meanings of cannabis are investigated, pursuing possible links to certain (sub)cultural ways of working and living and to socioeconomic and sociodemographic conditions. Thirdly, the project aims – based on empirical data – to contribute to a conceptual extension to the distinction between substance/drug, set and setting, focusing on cultural knowledge and the stakes in conventional life.
The project is supported by the Basic Research Fund (GFF) of the University of St.Gallen