UBC Graduate Research

Queering Cannabis Obey, Kareem Gabriel


“Queer demarcates not a positivity but a positionality, vis-à-vis the normative, a positionality that… is in fact available to anyone or thing that is marginalized.” - (Halperin 62) Despite the growing relevance of recreational dispensaries, currently there is a severe lack of architectural inquiry that critically looks at the socio-spatial development of the cannabis storefront. Furthermore, heteronormative discussion of dispensaries willfully ignores or overlooks the queer roots of legal cannabis architecture in the HIV-positive LGBT community of San Francisco. The research phase of this project parallels queer space theory with Everyday Urbanism and offers a new lens to understand the early cannabis dispensary as a queered space. What is queer space, or rather, what does it mean to queer? Reed bemoans the idea that because queerness is “... an ineffable ideal of oppositional culture, [and] is so fluid and contingent that the idea of a concrete queer space is an oxymoron” (Reed 64). Instead, he along with other queer space theorists, such as Aaron Betsky, layout a series of qualities that can be used to better understand queer space as a process based attitude towards design, something that is actionable, a queering of architecture. Queering Cannabis is an installation-based project informed by the queer roots of legal cannabis architecture. Functionally, the project posits that the queering of architecture offers an actionable design attitude, which works in opposition to the erasure that has taken place through the typification of the cannabis dispensary over time and current policies that stigmatize the consumption of cannabis. Sitting somewhere between performance, tagging, and protest, Queering Cannabis initiates a sequence of enactment, loss, and construction informed by the symbolic queerness of smoke, ash, and residue. Seattle, Washington, is the primary site of investigation and deployment of this theory. Seattle was chosen for the relatively long period legal cannabis architecture has had to develop, given Washington state legalizing recreational cannabis in 2012 (Reiman 351).

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