The Cannabis Action Network: A Structural Analysis of a Grassroots Organization
Henrickson, Heidi Allene
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This is a study of the Cannabis Action Network (CAN hereafter), one of the many organizations and one of the most active in the Marijuana Movement CAN is a unique organization based purely on volunteers, or full-time and part-time activists living and working together to achieve change. The basis for this study will be Randall Collins' conflict theory of organizations from Conflict Sociology: Toward an Explanatory Science. Collins' elements of an organization include: ... individuals pursuing their own interests; sanctions they may use to gain compliance, and the administrative forms through which they are applied; the way in which particular kinds of tasks, attempted with particular technologies and in particular geographic situations, shape these conflicts and give the organizational network its particular changing shape over time.4 The sanctions Collins refers to are the forms of control an organization uses to produce its goals, to control its members to function toward that same end. Three types of control discussed by Collins are material, coercive and nonnative. Individually, these forms of control produce certain outcomes. Used in combinations, these forms of control determine the structure of the organization. The methods used in this study were participant observation and interviewing. I lived and worked with CAN for two months, interviewing all of my full-time co-workers,or volunteers, (with the exception of one person) and others and who I felt would benefit my study with their input and who were associated with CAN and active in their goals. It was made clear and was overwhelmingly understood that my position at CAN was that of a temporary, full-time activist and most importantly as a researcher. Although I was expected to be as responsible as the others for my CAN-related tasks, it was known and respected that my research was not based on a judgement of the political cause or of my co-workers as individuals, but based on the organization as a whole and how it functioned.