Making medicine; producing pleasure: A critical examination of medicinal cannabis policy and law in Victoria, Australia
Several jurisdictions around the world have introduced policies and laws allowing for the legal use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. However, there has been little critical discussion of how the object of ‘medicinal cannabis‘ is enacted in policy and practice. Informed by Carol Bacchi’s poststructuralist approach to policy analysis and the work of science and technology studies scholars, this paper seeks to problematise the object of ‘medicinal cannabis‘ and examine how it is constituted through governing practices. In particular, we consider how the making of the object of ‘medicinal cannabis‘ might constrain or enact discourses of pleasure. As a case example, we take the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s review of law reform options to allow people in the Australian state of Victoria to be treated with medicinal cannabis. Through analysis of this case example, we find that although ‘medicinal cannabis‘ is constituted as a thoroughly medical object, it is also constituted as unique. We argue that medicinal cannabis is enacted in part through the production of another object (so-called ‘recreational cannabis‘) and the social and political meanings attached to both. Although both ‘substances’ are constituted as distinct, ‘medicinal cannabis‘ relies on the ‘absent presence’ of ‘recreational cannabis‘ to define and shape what it is. However, we find that contained within this rendering of ‘medicinal cannabis‘ are complex enactments of health and wellbeing, which open up discourses of pleasure. ‘Medicinal cannabis‘ appears to challenge the idea that the effects of ‘medicine’ cannot be understood in terms of pleasure. As such, the making of ‘medicinal cannabis‘ as a medical object, and its invocation of broad notions of health and wellbeing, expand the ways in which drug effects can be acknowledged, including pleasurable and desirable effects, helping us to think differently about both medicine and other forms of drug use.
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