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A Sociological Study of the Use of Cannabis.

Hester, Stephen K. (1976) A Sociological Study of the Use of Cannabis. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94412) (KAR id:94412)


This thesis is about the use of cannabis amongst students from a university in the south of England.* Its aims are to illuminate the nature of cannabis use by adopting a phenomenological perspective, to extend previous 'naturalistic' work on this topic, and thereby to demonstrate the value of asking phenomenological questions.

In the first chapter, the main findings and features of previous naturalistic research on cannabis use are critically reviewed. It is suggested that, when examined from a phenomenological point of view, such research takes for granted and leaves unexpiated several important aspects of the phenomenon of cannabis and that it thereby only partially illuminates its nature. Subsequent chapters focus attention on these neglected issues.

In chapter two, the nature of the social types of cannabis users which are employed by the members themselves is examined. Particular attention is paid to members' grounds for typing users in terms of the two predominant social types in use at the time of this research - the 'head' and the 'freak'. It is suggested that these grounds may be expressed sociologically in terms of four main constructs: centrality, context, community and commitment. In chapter three, the nature of cannabis as a substance from the perspective of the users is analysed, with particular emphasis being placed on members' categories of cannabis and their methods of interpretive work whereby they decide (a) whether a substance is cannabis at all, (b) what type of cannabis it is and (c) the quality of cannabis. Chapter four presents a sequential analysis of the procedural basis of the use of cannabis, with special attention being directed to the use of different methods of consuming the drug and to the social organisation of collective consumption.

In chapter five, the focus is on the effects of cannabis. Here particular attention is given to members' conceptions of their experiences of the drug, to their understandings of the production of different kinds of effects, to their interpretive work involved in 'making sense' of these effects, and to their methods for achieving IV or avoiding certain kinds of cannabis experiences.

The subject matter of chapter six is the morality of cannabis use. The focus here is on how members account for their initial and subsequent use of the drug, their conceptions of its morality, their grounds for defining its proscription as unwarranted, and their methods for sustaining their version of the morality of cannabis use in social interaction.

Chapter seven discusses users' cultural solutions to the problem of acquiring cannabis. The main focus is on their methods of quantifying cannabis, their understandings of the cannabis market and their practices and procedures for conducting cannabis transactions.

Chapter eight analyses members’ conceptions of the risks of being a cannabis user, firstly in the sense of the perceived consequences of discovery and, secondly, in terms of the perceived chances of being apprehended. Members’ concealment strategies, taken in the light of their assessments of the risks involved, are then described and their grounds for their selective use analysed.

In chapter nine, some formal phenomenological and structural conditions underlying the use of cannabis in this setting are discussed, together with some substantive and theoretical implications of the preceding chapters. Finally, in chapter ten, some suggestions for future research are made.

* Pseudonyms are used throughout this thesis in order to protect the anonymity of the students and the university.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94412
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2023 14:05 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2023 14:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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