The Politicization of Objects: Meaning and Materiality in the U.S. Cannabis Market

Aimee DInnin Huff, Ashlee Humphreys*, Sarah J.S. Wilner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In this article, we theorize how marketplace objects and their properties facilitate market legitimacy. Adopting assemblage theory, we examine a politically contested market - the U.S. recreational cannabis market - using retail sales data, public opinion polls and surveys, mainstream media coverage, and interviews with producers and consumers. We find that objects convey meaning in the market by creating sensory or discursive alignment between new or contested products and products from existing, legitimate markets, and by creating sensory or discursive distancing between new products and products in existing, illegitimate markets. We further find that different types of consumers play different roles in the overall legitimation process because they perceive alignments and misalignments differently. We present a conceptual model that links object meaning with the market and broader, cultural, and societal levels, demonstrating how materiality contributes to the overall legitimation of a politically contested market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-50
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • assemblage theory
  • cannabis
  • legitimacy
  • legitimation
  • marijuana
  • market evolution
  • materiality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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