D2D California Dreaming Series

The Land of Weed

Marijuana plant

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In addition to learning how to wait for the light, newcomers to California often marvel at the fact that it is (kinda sorta) legal to buy doctor-prescribed pot under the 12-year-old medical marijuana statute described in today's California Dreamin' segment. (Also check out a this report of trip taken to pot business school Oaksterdam University by NPR Digital's own Heather Murphy.)

Disbelief was certainly my reaction. One of the first people I met after moving to Los Angeles' historic core was a "clinic supervisor" who worked out of my favorite coffee shop brokering appointments between potential patients and a band of doctors stashed in a nearby loft. Dude was the picture of the gentleman pot dealer — relaxed, congenial, informed, non-threatening — and on more than one occasion he expounded on California's pot laws to me, this as a prelude to pressing a club-style flyer into my hand and assuring me a quick and easy diagnosis for "anxiety." It seemed too good to be true, and, given the way he abruptly disappeared one day, I think it actually was.

I have to confess that these encounters left me a bit cynical about how the state's medical marijuana system functions. In my circle of non-Californian friends, the popular perspective on these statutes tends to be aligned with Federal law enforcement's: the prescription is a get out of jail free for drug use. Don't get me wrong: I personally can't think of a bigger waste of limited government resources than the relentless pursuit of stoners. I also know that for every quasi-legal entrepreneur like the gent working his cell-phone over latte's downtown there are likely 5 organizations like Santa Cruz's WAMM - The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana - which works with about 250 chronically and terminally ill medical marijuana users.

Also, Larry David's fictional misadventures aside, it's relatively easy to get marijuana in most major metropolitan areas. A healthy, able-bodied person eager to toke is (to my mind, at least) more likely to just go find their local dealer than expose themselves to the privacy risks and insurance complications that can be caused by having a medical marijuana prescription in their increasingly centralized and digitized medical records.

These insurance concerns are real. I'm not shy about writing that I've been in therapy (my dad had just died, and it's requirement of working in the media, especially in Manhattan), and one of the first conversations I ever had with a shrink was a convo about privacy, my therapist advising me to be aware of what he termed the "long-term consequences" of having even the mildest mental health diagnosis—adjustment disorder—in my files. His suggestion was that I pay out of pocket to protect my anonymity (he would charge me on a sliding scale), but, seeing how I was fully insured at the time, cheap, and had no ambitions to run for president (this was pre-Obama; it just didn't seem possible), I figured I'd let my insurance cover it. Years later, when I became self-employed and started paying for my own health coverage, that one year of therapy combined with sinusitis and high cholesterol to make me uninsurable. When I got the letter from a company informing me that I was being rejected due to high risk, pre-existing conditions, I thought I had mislaid a cancer diagnosis during my move west. I was, fortunately, able to get coverage —at a premium— under California's Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program, but I can only imagine what how much worse my profile would have looked with pot prescription thrown into the mix, no matter how legitimate.

Those suffering from serious and chronic illnesses face the same insurance and employment concerns. Just earlier this year, the State Supreme Court found that companies can legally fire employees who use marijuana legally under the state program:

Employers can fire workers found to have used medical marijuana even if it was legally prescribed, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The high court upheld a small Sacramento telecommunications company's firing of a man who flunked a company-ordered drug test. Gary Ross held a medical marijuana card authorizing him to use the drug to treat a back injury sustained while serving in the Air Force.

The company, Ragingwire Inc., argued that it rightfully fired Ross because all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, which does not recognize the medical marijuana laws in California and 11 other states.

The justices upheld that argument in a 5-2 decision.

``No state law could completely legalize marijuana for medical purposes because the drug remains illegal under federal law,'' Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for the majority. [full story]

Obviously, the terminally ill have more important things to worry about than their files, but one imagines that chronically ill (as opposed to terminal) patients who might get relief from marijuana staying out of the system due to a healthy dose of non-pot-induced, privacy paranoia.

But what say you? What do you think about California's medical marijuana statutes and the recent push by the DEA to close down dispensaries? Also: what about healthy people with bogus prescriptions? An unintended consequence of a good law, or the inevitable consequence of a bad law? Let us know!



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Who cares? Smoke it if you can get it.

Sent by Jaker Mouse | 1:01 PM | 8-18-2008

I am not a pot smoker, or a medical marijuana user. But I have witnessed a tragedy unfurling with the recent verdict in the case of the US vs. Charlie Lynch. Charlie, a dispensary owner, is the furthest things from a "drug trafficker" and went so far as to get every State and Local permit, pay his Federal taxes, and even phone the DEA California info line to find out if he could open a dispensary (they deferred him to State and Local authorities). Now his dispensary has been raided, and Charlie has been convicted on 5 counts of drug trafficking in Federal Court - for trying his best to obey all authorities He could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison and he has never even had a traffic ticket. The Feds need to get their act together and this absurd situation needs to end. If not, California should call on it's resources to oppose the Feds. The situation is ridiculous and must be addressed.

Sent by yofitofu | 1:07 PM | 8-18-2008

what I see is a typical state vs fed argument between our half brained ego driven law makers.the fear and intimadation of the dea is part of this half legal grey area. Give this issue 5-7 years to allow the shock to set in for our less progessive states.

Sent by jay | 1:08 PM | 8-18-2008

You guys get the award for stupidest question asked by a news organization in 2008.

Of COURSE they are. Medical Marijuana is a back-door Marijuana legalization effort. I dont know a single person with a "green card" that has any legitimate medical condition that requires medical Marijuana.

Medical Marijuana is a trial balloon. When people realize that smoking pot has been widespread and legal for years without all of the horrors that supposedly accompany it, people will be more willing to legalize it. And as a shameless Marijuana smoker, I say bring it on.

Sent by Fred | 1:15 PM | 8-18-2008

It's one more example of Bush hypocrisy to overrun state's rights. The federal law, placing marijuana on the most "dangerous" list is the result of a Puritan anti-pleasure, pro-violence, pro-alcohol ethic. Unfortunately, that perverse ethic prevails. Additionally, the infrastructure, prisons, DEA, and other law enforcement bodies derive profit from the bad law. I am for the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana use.

Sent by Sheila Anderson | 1:21 PM | 8-18-2008

As a physician, board certified in Addiction Medicine, with 20 years experience, I firmly believe that marijuana SHOULD be legal. The federal government allows the prescribing of delta-9-thc in pill form (Marinol). Not allowing legal marijuana use is just hypocritical. It is a political issue filled with misinformation and fear mongering. There is so much fear that even non-marijuana hemp is illegal, denying American farmers a cash crop that could rplace tobacco. Tobacco is far more dangerous than marijuana. Nicotine is the most addicting substance around, yet it is legal; another political decision. Nicotine causes people to continue to use a cancer causing, emphysema causing, COPD causing, premature aging causing, coronary artery disease causing product even when people know better. This is not true of marijuana. California citizens have the right idea.

Sent by Randolph W. Lievertz, M.D. | 1:23 PM | 8-18-2008

The Federal official said that 'medical' does not make it legal. The Federal law declares it a 'Narcotic' which it most certainly is not.

Sent by Charles | 1:59 PM | 8-18-2008

No doubt that marijuana has medical benefits and should be available for that, but even if they didn't, it should definitely be legalized. The money and energy that the government spends on such a harmless cause is rediculous when there are so many other major issues out there. Plus, to legalize it would mean having the benefits of taxation, and standardization. I am a successful, late 30's mom and business owner. I have smoked for years, and almost everyone in my middle-class, soccer-mom, circle smokes occasionally. It's so incredible that we can have tobacco and alcahol legal, but not marijuana. There is no comparison to other chemical drugs that really do so much harm to people and society.

Sent by Michele | 2:02 PM | 8-18-2008

NPR, look back into the history of why Marijuana is illegal in the first place. It was business as usual between wealthy newspaper owner Hearsh and his buddies in the US Rich Man's government. Marijuana is safer than alcohol, cigaretts and many of the over the counter and perscription drugs.

Sent by Gail Daniels | 2:03 PM | 8-18-2008

If it makes you feel better, makes you smile, makes you feel closer to your creator? Is that a medicine? Does it settle your stomach enough to want to eat a healthy meal? Does it make you feel at ease when other wise you could be bothered by a lower back pain? Does that make it a medicine. How about do you eat a well balanced diet? Well maybe its just an HERB on the chicken rub. Are you feeling better after a stressful day and you decompress with a reasoning session with close friends. Maybe cannabis could be to the medical industry that which Hydrogen fuel cell cars are to the oil industry. Is this healthy? It is harmless and can be equal to Gods gift to man. Herbs- Vegetables, & fruits. I use it for all the reasons above. The voters of california have spoken. Respect the letter of the law. State appellate court district 4 recently stated that state law superceeds federal.

Sent by GHarvey | 2:03 PM | 8-18-2008

I don't see any reason for the Feds to bust medical marijuana patients after the states have legalized it. We all know the government's "War on Drugs" is for the sole purpose of making money with fines and confiscating property. I don't believe the Feds keep drugs illegal "for our own good" (our health). They've already legalized two of the most dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco. So, who are they protecting? Alcohol alone is responsible for more deaths in our country than all illegal drugs put together! The Feds need to get their noses out of the states business. Why bother to give states rights when the Feds can just come strip them away? It would be nice to see our Federal Government concentrate on more important things (rather than busting cancer patients or their doctors) like Homeland Security for a change!

Sent by Sandy | 2:08 PM | 8-18-2008

Marijuana will never be legalized for medical or any other reason. It is NON-TAXABLE, therefore illegal forever. You could try to regulate it, but unlike Tobacco & Liquor(beer & wine) which is too hard to grow and/or make, marijuana can be easily grown in your backyard or frontyard. As long as you dont try to sell it you can share it with friends and relatives or get stoned all by yourself tax free.

Sent by joe | 2:14 PM | 8-18-2008

How about an informed conversation about medical marijuana?

Throughout my adult life I have suffered from clinical depression. I have visited numerous doctors over the past ten years. The drugs prescribed by these psychiatrist have included antidepressants (Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Cymbalta, Welbrutin & Zolaft), mood stabilizers (lithium, Depakote), anti-anxiety (Klonipin, Thorasin, Bursbar, Ativan), anti-psychotic drugs (Respertin, Ability) and even an anti-narcoleptic (Provigil).

While these drugs can have their benefits, they also come with their varied and dramatic side affects. As a general rule, these drugs adversely affect sexual stimulation dramatically, cause nausea, create irregular sleep habits and usual result in weight gain/change. Unfortunately, doctors still do not have a clear understanding of these drugs. Particularly, there's no empirical evidence as to why more free chemicals such as serotonin, nor-epinephrine or dopamine work to alleviate depression. Further -- there is no empirical way to determine what levels each individual such have. The result is that doctors are likely to prescribe these medications based on general categories with a wait and see attitude. This is further complicated by the fact that these medications can take 4-6 weeks to manifest their benefits. Another consequence of the uncertainty in this area of medicine is that doctors often prescribe those drugs that they have readily available as samples. In other words, these doctors are particularly susceptible to the solicitations of pharmaceutical representatives.

It's been my experience that cannabis is a more effective method of treating my depression than any of the drugs listed above. It is a shame that we live in a society that allows for things like cigarettes and alcohol, both of which are far more dangerous than cannabis, but individuals like myself (a law school graduate) who require the medical benefits of cannabis are forced into risky and illegal behavior in order to live a normal existence.

While some might argue that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes, these individuals would struggle to support their claims with credible evidence. While both cigarettes & alcohol kill thousands each year, the greatest dangers associated with marijuana are criminal arrest and the conditions of the illegal black market, a market that exists only because of marijuana's illegality. No doubt, like any substance including basic food, marijuana must be used in moderation to avoid abuse.

Often when I turn on the local news here in Kansas City I see a new report about a indoor home grower being busted. Many of these growers live in harmony with their neighbors; neighbors who often comment that the arrested were quiet courteous neighbors that manifested no harm to the community.

Marijuana use itself doesn't cause violence or victims. It is truly a victimless crime, unless you consider the user to be the victim of his/her own actions. Marijuana punishment is a perfect example of the punishment not fitting the crime. The West Coast is way ahead of the curve on the issue, yet more needs to be done to, at a minimum, decriminalize marijuana in the US

Sent by Grant | 2:16 PM | 8-18-2008

Uncle Sam runs the largest drug cartel in collecting punative taxes on alcohol & tobacco, both of which create billions of dollars in medical costs, lost productivity, early payouts on life insurance policies, 10s of millions of addicts. Alcohol is responsible for half of all fatal vehicle crashes, a majority of murders, a majority of anger based assault, rape and other violent crimes. I'm a victum of both these "legal drugs. Both my parents were addicted to alcohol & tobacco. Living in their house 18 years breathing 2nd hand smoke has left me w permanently damaged lungs. I've had bronchitus more that 40 times and pneumonia 3 times. It seems that I'm developing asthma which could haunt me the rest of my life. The people of our country share the extreme cost of these 2 very dangerous drugs. A little known fact is that by weight, nicotine is more poisonous than strychnine. Alcoholism leads to chirosis of the liver, termination from jobs, divorce and many other maladies, the cost of which is often born by those who don't drink to excess. Marijuana is much less dangerous than either of these legal drugs. If marijuana is illegal, then alcohol & tobacco should be also. Since Uncle Sam won't give up his profits from these drugs, he should accept that 10s of millions of Americans should be allowed to use their drug of choice, marijuana. Criminalizing marijuana is another issue that separates the WW II generation from the baby boomers, a separation that inhibits useful cooperation between the generations that could go a long way towards solving the need to switch to green renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, & even generating electricity from ocean currents. In my nearly 60 years of life, I've found the WW II generation people to be totally unwilling to consider any change in thinking that would cause them to reevaluate their positions on issues that are not viewed through the same lenses by their own children. I've lost hope in trying to communicate w them & am simply waiting for enough of them to die to press for legalization. Hopefully NPR can use its public voice to present the medical & physiological facts about marajuana in a way that will cause enough of the WW II gen. to rethink their position on this issue. Thanks for your consideration.

Sent by Paul Bomberger | 2:21 PM | 8-18-2008

When the DEA no longer makes money off of the selling of the pocessions of the "drug dealers" and can legally confiscate all of the properties of the people that they bust. PLUS get billions of $s from the US Gov't, annually...Then they will get off the backs of the people in this country that just want a bit of relief from the pain and stress of everyday living in this slave society that we call the USA. If you don't think that this is a slave society, well, just consider your position for a moment.See, I told you!

Sent by Greg Gill | 2:22 PM | 8-18-2008

The entire argument against Cannabis, medical or recreational, revolves around Nixon-era prejudice. When Nixon received the report which basically stated that not only are current Cannabis prohibition measures ineffective, but that there is no basis for Cannabis prohibition, Nixon responded with the "War On Drugs." This is the basis of the current anti-Cannabis propaganda that the U.S. Department of Justice and their followers use to justify Cannabis prohibition.

Opponents argue that Cannabis endangers their children, promotes gangs, causes people to commit crimes, and is a nuisance in general. Yes, illegal Cannabis is all of these things. It's time to shake away the years of contempt for American counterculture and realize that Cannabis has been recognized as medicinal for thousands of years.

Sent by Humboldt Thug | 3:54 PM | 8-18-2008

The fact that marijuana is still illegal while cigarettes and alcohol are perfectly fine is ludicrous. If the marijuana industry had the lobbying (i.e. bribing) power of the other two industries, I have a feeling the situation would change quickly.

Sent by Amy K | 3:57 PM | 8-18-2008

The medicinal marijuana prescription process here is pathetic and criminal. Los Angeles' CBS affiliate (CBS2) went undercover to "Dr. Pot", a semi-retired MD who writes hundreds of prescriptions each month for $300 each (and for CASH only). His sole practice is committing malpractice, writing hundreds of to potheads every month. He does NOT examine ANYONE. He wrote the prescription, as seen on a hidden camera, after 'seeing' CBS' reporter for two minutes, WITHOUT getting up from his desk!!!

Earlier this year, a young man KILLED a motorist and paralyzed a CHP officer in Ventura after buying several ounces of Marijuana WITH A PRESCRIPTION from a 'legal' clinic. There was nothing wrong with him, but he registered the HIGHEST THC level every recorded in Ventura County for an impaired driver.

Pot has NO place in our world! It does NOT have ANY medically-useful properties---not for glaucoma or anything else (every proven).

The medical marijuana law was SUPPOSED to 'help' people that 'needed' pot. NO ONE 'NEEDS' pot and THOUSANDS of normal people with NOTHING wrong with them have been issued prescriptions for a drug! It's wrong, pathetic and distructive and for some DEADLY!

Sent by David | 4:05 PM | 8-18-2008

There seems to be a disconnect between the state collecting taxes and the feds making arrests. If the state collects taxes, doesn't that mean it's a legal enterprise, and shouldn't the state be responsible for the arrested's defense? Is this taxation without protection?
I'm not a smoker, but I say legalize it everywhere! The true "gateway drug" is alcohol, yet that's legal. It doesn't make sense!

Sent by Jim S | 4:59 PM | 8-18-2008

It makes sense to allow those who can benefit from medical marijuana to use it under a doctor's care. Most prescription medications have some unwanted side effects, and many are misused by a number of individuals. The law deals with these individuals on a case-by-case basis, it doesn't ban the medication entirely. The relief medical marijuana brings to thousands of sufferers makes it worth the risk of some misuse happening along the way. A compassionate society opts to relieve suffering whenever it can.

Sent by Bill Stevens | 5:31 PM | 8-18-2008

What about HIPAA laws and Doctor/Patient privacy guarantees? Does getting a "pot card" from a Doctor really imply your name goes into some potential healthcare insurance busting database?

Sent by Don D. | 5:51 PM | 8-18-2008

"Pot has NO place in our world! It does NOT have ANY medically-useful properties---not for glaucoma or anything else (every proven"

BS. Get off your misinformed fear mongering horse. Go read a history book instead of spreading your bs.

Sent by Eric | 5:55 PM | 8-18-2008

David doesn't know what he's talking about. Typical knee jerk reaction.

Marijuana has some amazing properties - it can build an appetite to those who need nourishment, it reduces nausea for those undergoing chemotherapy, and it reduces pain for those who suffer chronically.

No bar fights have ensued after consuming pot, and no one has ever died of an overdose.

It's time we the people stood up and put an end to this nonsense - Marijuana should be regulated and taxed, not criminalized.

Sent by John Logan | 6:17 PM | 8-18-2008

My wife suffers terribly from Central Post Stroke Pain (24/7) due to a thalamic stroke in 2002. We spend almost $17,000 annually on medication, and are unable to use medical marijuana. She desperately wants to try something that might alleviate her pain. Why not? And boost the economy too?

Sent by Harry Whitney | 6:27 PM | 8-18-2008

Med-juana, Fun-juana! Whatever you want to call it, but please don't call an unprocessed weed a 'drug' with that connotation. Elixir, yes, drug, no. Cabish!? I'm 61. I'm still awed by the indifference that Americans seemingly have to the decades of death, arrests, imprisonment, no-knock SWAT home invasion raids that leave even the 'innocent' in shock, etc. But mostly, the deaths - by being killed over a weed that use to cost $10/oz and now cost about $200/oz. Police raid homes and sometimes kill the occupants, some were the wrong house! There's a whole list for viewing just do a WEB search. Or they'll kill your dogs, barking or not as they did to the Mayor's dogs! In my small town, one kid shot and killed another while pretending to make a purchase. Why? Over this, you kill someone? War on Drugs' Brigades dressed in Ninja-Combat attire bust down your door and raid your home as if it were an enemy bunker (you can actually watch this 'excitement' on TV! As if a sport.) - and thank the Lord you come out alive - guilty or not! Over Marijuana!? And even if you are guilty, I don't think marijuana possession and sales should/could be a death sentence in this country, do you? DEATH SENTENCE! Dead because they made a weed illegal!? Legalize it for adults, try our best to teach kids to wait, if ever, and use the power of social stigma, as with cigs and drunk driving, to control it and eventually...no, it'll never go away, it too useful and too benign, but not for kids. Also, this war on weed is preventing us from industrializing Industrial Hemp! Free Hemp! Free Enterprise! Free USA! Corn for fuel is crazy.

Sent by Joe Mash | 7:19 PM | 8-18-2008

With all the problems in the world why is anybody concerned about anything this insignificant.

What kind of high do the prohibitionists get from deciding for someone else what they can't do.

Why do we spend hundreds of millions yearly to police pot when we should be saving those millions and making even more from taxes?

In this situation the real crime is the laws prohibiting pot. When are we going to grow up and get our priorities straight?

Sent by Chris from Hollywood | 7:31 PM | 8-18-2008

What if Cannabis can CURE Cancer? In 1974 our own Gov't suppressed findings that clearly demonstrated the Cancer fighting properties of Cannabis.

Here, in this recent documentary we seemingly have Proof that indeed it can treat Cancer but most likely can CURE cancer in the most gentle and non-toxic manner.

Please take a moment to view this video. Rick Simpson of Nova Scotia reports he has RE-discovered a Cure for Cancer using THC. He reports that he not only cured his own Cancer, but has saved the lives of a few others stricken by this disease. His own Dr. did not want to discuss it with him! BigPharma agrees they make a Lot of money from Cancer Drugs. I doubt they would want to see the healing properties of Cannabis enter mainstream Pharmacopeia again anytime soon.

The Feds ALREADY isolated and RE-scheduled, part of the Cannabis Plant.

THC (the psychoactive property that has "everybody" up in arms) was "re-scheduled" For the BENEFIT of PharmaCo's to allow for the manufacture of Cessamet and Marinol type drugs.

The US Government has filed for patents For Cannabis based medicines. The Federal Government also Grows, processes and Mails Cannabis medicines to 3 remaining Federal Cannabis Patients. They receive nearly 7 # each year.

THC re-scheduled to a Fed schedule III drug, which allows it to be prescribed, while the WHOLE plant remains a Fed schedule I, the MOST dangerous and toxic of all drugs.

The Feds isolated THC away from the whole plant to allow BigPharmaCo's the rights to synthesize THC and make profitable medicines.

Yet, 106,000 people will die this year alone from properly using Prescribed Pharma drugs.

More than 600,000 Die each year from Legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol. Fatalities attributable to all Illegal Drug use combined is just 17,000.

Cannabis, Zero Deaths in more than 5000 years of use.

I have to wonder what the heck is going on. We tax payers are burdened with an expense of $7.5 Billion each and every year, for Just Cannabis eradication programs. Why?
They rescheduled THC, to allow for Synthetic Cannabis medicine to be made by BigPharma, they grow it and mail it to Federal Patients and they file Patents.
I must suggest they Agree that Cannabis is an effective alternative herbal medicine

Who Profits from Cannabis Prohibition? When will cannabis Medicine become a matter of Health Care and Not a Political Issue?

Sent by friedaMae | 8:18 PM | 8-18-2008

What still bothers me is how the govt demonized the plant with racial issues. It makes darkies think their as good as white folks(a paraphrase of Henry Anslinger)? Anslinger was a puppet to Dupont. In 1968, Johnson signed his law so the people against his war could be legally arrested instead of having to deny their freedom of speech. Nixon commissioned a report that advised "Considering the range of social concerns in contemporary America, marihuana does not, in our considered judgment, rank very high. We would deemphasize marihuana as a problem."
Our stagnant govt has kept its slaves.. er, citizens paying for their drug war perpetuating the lies and diverting funds from more important problems. I love hearing people argue that buying pot funds drug dealers, cartels and terrorism. So make it legal for medicinal and recreational and oh, my goodness, no more money to the badguys. Smoking pot isn't wrong, prohibition is. And so is the IRS...

Sent by Patrick S | 8:38 PM | 8-18-2008

I agree with the last comment, it doesn't make sense. Alcohol and tobacco have much worse repercussions on a person's well-being. One gains a higher dependency and the long term affects are much worse. The biggest down side to smoking weed is the potential of getting caught by authorities, not what it will do to me in the long run.

I wish the government weren't so scared of something they seem to know so little about.

Sent by Isaac | 9:44 PM | 8-18-2008

I have endured raging nerve and bone pain stemming from a 4-surgery spinal problem for the past 24 years. I am 39 now. I discovered the pain relieving effects of smoking marijuana about 15 years ago, after being a staunch, balls-to-the-wall supporter of the anti-drug movement. My doctors tried their best to get me to take heavy narcotics such as: codeine, vicodin, fentanyl and oxycontin. I told them all the same thing, "I don't want to become addicted and spend my life in a drug induced haze." I still hold to my truth that the only medicine that works for me is pot. I am always open about it with my doctors and it has bitten me in the butt too many times. It is in my official medical record and when I applied for disability benefits, I was told that if I wanted to apply for drug addiction (the pot) I would be easily approved. I refuse to do so. My debilitation is pain, not pot. I have to break the law in order to treat my condition, therefore I am a criminal. Nevermind that I don't drink or take narcotics, this is a nation of political medical neglect at the hands of kick-back taking officials and the drug and insurance companies that they serve. There's no money in Weed, but oxy, vicodin, and the rest are the bread and butter of "big drug".
I have and will continue to tell my story. Consequences be damned. Maybe one day someone will listen.

Sent by Jennifer Haehnel | 10:35 PM | 8-18-2008

I am unaware of any death due to Marijuana. Pathologists do not even test for it in autopsies. I do not believe that there is a public safety basis for making Marijuana is a Controlled Substance. As far as I know this decision is based solely on the 1930's film "Reefer Madness" which is not sound public policy.

Sent by David Work | 11:21 PM | 8-18-2008

This is me wondering if David at 4:05 PM ET on 08-18-2008 has ever thought for himself at any point in his life?

The same thing can be said for ANYTHING NOT USED IN MODERATION (including food bought in the US supermarkets if you don't "stick to the outer aisles", look to the obesity epidemic in the US that we are exporting to other countries).

Marijuana is a plant. Used for thousands of years. Without issue for the most part unless you believe fear mongers since the 1930's.

I say why give pot to someone, when you can teach them to grow it themselves!

A former pot smoker (yes look it up)...

Sent by Bill Gates | 12:04 AM | 8-19-2008

The medicinal marijuana prescription process here is pathetic and criminal. Los Angeles' CBS affiliate (CBS2) went undercover to "Dr. Pot", a semi-retired MD who writes hundreds of prescriptions each month for $300 each (and for CASH only). His sole practice is committing malpractice, writing hundreds of to potheads every month. He does NOT examine ANYONE. He wrote the prescription, as seen on a hidden camera, after 'seeing' CBS' reporter for two minutes, WITHOUT getting up from his desk!!!

Earlier this year, a young man KILLED a motorist and paralyzed a CHP officer in Ventura after buying several ounces of Marijuana WITH A PRESCRIPTION from a 'legal' clinic. There was nothing wrong with him, but he registered the HIGHEST THC level every recorded in Ventura County for an impaired driver.

Pot has NO place in our world! It does NOT have ANY medically-useful properties---not for glaucoma or anything else (every proven).

The medical marijuana law was SUPPOSED to 'help' people that 'needed' pot. NO ONE 'NEEDS' pot and THOUSANDS of normal people with NOTHING wrong with them have been issued prescriptions for a drug! It's wrong, pathetic and distructive and for some DEADLY!

There is always one in the crowd. Maybe he didn't mind because he knows how harmless it is. You use one accident to prove your point? That is pathetic. Alcohol causes, well let's just say more than one accident yearly.

I am someone who suffers from chronic pain. Unfortunately I live in a state where it is illegal to use marijuana. This makes me a criminal. I say if you want to bust me for smoking then so be it. I won't quit because it helps much more than the loads of drugs that the doctors have put me on and the side effects are virtually non-existent. What it will take is us standing up for ourselves. The government doesn't care about any of us...

Sent by Jason | 8:45 AM | 8-19-2008

The prohibition of cannabis is a crime against humanity.

As President George Washington instructed his gardener: "Sow it everywhere".

Sent by Richard P Steeb | 10:11 AM | 8-19-2008

The Most dangerous element surrounding the use of Cannabis, whether it be Medical or recreational, are the Laws, Rules and Policies governing its use.

The consequences are a life altering, felony arrest record and possible incarceration for consuming/possessing plant matter.

How much money does it cost a tax-payer for just the State and Federal Legal battles over Cannabis?

How much does it cost State coffers to Lose the tax-dollars that Could be generated from Taxing it or Licensure fees required to grow it?

How much money does "Drug Free America" and "S.O.S." (save our society from drugs) get from the feds to fight Cannabis? Are those monies from Tax-payers? How many local orgs are connected to and receive Tax payer monies from those orgs and the Feds?

How can any Law Enforcement agency bemoan budget woes with a straight face as they seek Cannabis users over rapists, ID thieves, Child predators and etc, at the same time they cry for increased funds based upon a rising crime rate
Is the crime rate growing because they are seeking people who grow and use this plant while allowing for real and dangerous people to go free? Is the crime rate growing because of Cannabis busts being reported as Drug busts in the same category as heroin and etc?

Is the crime rate growing?
If the crime rate is dropping as some analysts are reporting, then why do we need additional Law Enforcement Funds?
Perhaps they simply need to manage their budget dollars more efficiently by making Cannabis the Lowest Priority as Seattle did. The sky did not fall there after that decision was implemented.

What is the proportionate spending with-in the Drug task forces compared with dangerous Drugs investigations and other crimes like rape?

Lots of questions.

Sent by friedaMae | 10:32 AM | 8-19-2008

Marijuana prohibition is working no better than alcohol prohibition did. Certainly, marijuana is a gateway drug, but so are alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana would actually be less of a gateway drug if it were legalized. So many people use it these days, the continued prohibition is not only wrong, it's damaging our society.

Sent by Brian | 11:42 AM | 8-19-2008

To David | 4:05 PM ET: It is well known that the impaired driver in question, Jeremy White, tested positive for "Ecstasy" at the time of this collision. The D.O.J. press release purposefully does not mention Ecstasy intoxication as this factual evidence would not have helped justify the subsequent raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. Thank you for your post, your emotionally-charged words give validity to my statements about Nixon-era prejudice and Department of Justice propaganda.

Sent by Humboldt Thug | 11:48 AM | 8-19-2008

I am now 58 yrs old. Forty years ago I was diagnosed with testicular cancer followed by several metastesis. I was treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. I went from a strong 6" 190 lbs to an anorexic 112 lbs.

Fortunatly, I was able to find some pot and smoked enough to increase my appetite and allow for some kind of peacefulness.

I haven't used pot since I was 23 but would try to use it again if I was once more assaulted by a similar disease and treatment.

Sadly, I now have no idea how I might do that. I live in rural NYS and am not acquainted with pot. I wish that it were legal in NY and that people would just be left alone.

Sent by Christopher Owens | 1:05 PM | 8-19-2008

I've been a pot smoker, daily, for 41 years (I'm 59). I'm also an accountant, a husband, grandfather, a practitioner of yoga, a mountain biker, snowboarder and sometimes caretaker of my mother. I say this in an effort to disspel long held predjudices against pot smoking. Leave the pot alone. Like someone said, smoke it if you can get it.
I really thought that by this time this entire ridiculous pot situation would have been just legalized, and not just for medicinal use. WTF, can't we use our justice system for something more important?

Sent by Smokeater | 3:04 PM | 8-19-2008

The Neo-Cons talk the talk about State's Rights, yet when it comes to issues they disagree with, all that goes right out the window.

As a hospice worker with dying patients, I have seen over and over again how effective marijuana is in reducing the side effects and nausea of chemo and pain medications.

In California the people have voted to decriminalize personal use of marijuana. Back off, Uncle Sam!

Sent by Julie | 3:13 PM | 8-19-2008

Someone should tell David that his (single) example of the danger of pot is laughable when compared to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by alcohol and tobacco, every single year.

David, wake up!

Sent by Michael | 3:16 PM | 8-19-2008

In 2003 the US Dept. of Health and Human Services itself was awarded a patent (#6,630,507) based on research done at the NIH, on the medical value of cannabis for the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including stroke, trauma, auto-immune disorder, HIV dementia, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The very fact of this patent, awarded not by, but to the US Govt. should serve as a basis for a class action suit against the government that clings to the lie that cannabis has no medical value, and then uses this lie as an excuse to arrest people, close down medical dispensaries operating legally under California law, and confiscate, with virtually no oversight, personal property, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in California tax monies.

Why isn't this the focus of your story, rather than the incidental fact that some folks use cannabis for less than life threatening illnesses?

I would hope, that very soon, NPR takes the time to examine, in depth, all the newly discovered uses for cannabis in the treatment of cancer, MS, ADD, epilepsy, sleep disorders, etc.

For that matter, in depth evaluation of our current drug policies which were put in place based on misinformation and which have dismally failed, and cause much more pain than the social ills they claim to address, would be very welcome too.

Sent by T Brinnand | 3:44 PM | 8-19-2008

Didn't we learn anything from Prohibition? As a Family Practitioner, I have seen many families and homes broken up by police actions on marijuana. Occasionally I saw someone using too much marijuana too often, but the overusers of cigarettes and alcohol were many times more common than those overusing marijuana.

Sent by dean peyton D.O. | 10:45 PM | 8-19-2008

I've lived in California for the last 20 years. 1996 was the first year I was able to vote and I voted for medical marijuana even though I had no need for it or knew anyone who had the need for it. I'm glad I did.
Three years ago I had to go out of work on disability due to chronic pain. The doctors I dealt with misdiagnosed me and prescribed me countless pills. Nothing they did help and actually caused more issues. I turned my limited recreational and social marijuana use into a daily use to help ease my constant pain.
My pain is so bad; my disability is considered permanent and stationary. My workman's comp insurance company refused to pay for any further medical treatment even though I have a new diagnosis from a leading doctor. They don't want to pay for anything more.
I got my doctor's recommendation for medical cannabis less than 2 years ago, after moving to LA to finish my B.A. I had been worried I would be put on some list or my insurance would be affected but I met with a doctor without involving my insurance.
I've done some activism in the medical marijuana community because I want to help where and how I can. I decided to show my support at the Charles Lynch trial after seeing Drew Carey's ReasonTV piece about the situation. I never met Charles until the first day of jury selection.
Upon meeting this mild-mannered, soft-spoke, gracious and compassionate man, I knew I had to do everything I could to help. No one deserves to go to jail for 5-100 years for cannabis-only charges, especially Charles Lynch. He followed all the requirements on his business license; he met all city regulations; and was legal under CA law. There was one employee who did an illegal deal in a big 5 parking lot in a different city than the dispensary but should Charlie go to jail because of that.
During the trial he demonstrated his law-abiding nature in a couple of ways. At one point, while Charlie gave his direct examination testimony, Federal prosecutor, David Kowal objected to the fact that Charles was reading from the phone bill that showed he had called 4 DEA phone #s before opening his medical marijuana dispensary. The defense removed the phone bill from a projection screen which projected the image around the courtroom and Charlie's lawyer began asking him more questions about his conversations with the DEA. Charles stopped the proceedings by announcing he still had the phone bill in front of him in an evidence book. His lawyer told him to close the book. If Charlie was a dishonest man he could have just snuck a look at the phone bill and gotten away with it but he's an honest man and wanted to do the right thing.
In another instance Judge Wu was advising him about his attorney-client privileges, telling Charlie if he answers the prosecutions questions he forfeits his rights. Charlie looked at the judge and asked "How am I supposed to answer then?" He looked to the authority in the matter for guidance. He has a good-natured, law-abiding personality. If he didn't it would have be apparent at some point during the trial. Ask Charlie if having a physician's note to use cannabis in California is a get out of Federal jail card. He himself was a patient before he was busted. Now that he's subjected to random drug test by the federal government he is no longer allowed to use cannabis to relieve his debilitating migraines.
I'm not a terminally ill patient but I have a chronic condition. To just look at me, I look like a healthy, able-bodied person but those who know me know I struggle through life with mild to severe pain on a daily basis. People who suffer chronic pain have their body chemistry change due to the pain and suffer from depression easily. Many of these people end up taking their own lives because of the difficulties associated with being in constant pain.
Cannabis helps me maintain a positive attitude about my life while easing my pain. It's not a cure-all but it's been better than the numerous prescription drugs I've been on which usually hurt my stomach, interfered with my cognitions to the point of not allowing me to study at the prominent university I transferred to.
Pop-culture language and stereotypes do nothing for my current status as a cannabis patient. I don't take "tokes"; I medicate. I am not a stoner; I am a senior at a ivy league school; I attend church a couple of times a week; I am a community volunteer; I pay taxes; and vote.
Before moving to Los Angeles, I lived near Berkeley and purchased my medical cannabis on the black market out of shared-college living space out of a dirty, dingy room. I never really knew what I was getting and had no idea the difference between the strains. It was always a hassle. I always had to buy on the schedule of the dealer and deal with an unsafe, crowded purchase place.
Since getting my physician's note, I've been able to find safe and affordable access to medical cannabis from clean, well organized locations with educated members to help me make the best purchase for my own needs. The insurance companies never have to know one thing about this private medical situation of mine. It's none of their business, especially since their business does not seem to accommodate my own best interest.
California Senate plans to vote for a resolution that would protect California employees from being discriminated against for using medical cannabis on their own time. This new law would override the Ross decision.
I have no paranoia issues, I think that's another stereotype that hurt patients like me more than anything.
Because of my pain, I'm unable to grow for myself. I rely on people like Charles Lynch who run cooperatives and collectives to procure my pain-management medicine.
As far as healthy people with "bogus" recommendations (doctors do NOT prescribe cannabis they recommend it), they do NOT concern me in the least. Cannabis is a non-lethal herb. There is NO amount of marijuana that anyone can consume that would kill them from overdose. That can't even be said of water, not to mention all the deaths from prescription drugs and alcohol. The scientific research is powerful and should be the basis for regulations and restrictions not the government's misinformation.
The "rabbit-hole"-fluff piece, "California Dreaming" article interviews someone from the Office for National Drug Control Policy. That office is required to OPPOSE any legalization efforts of schedule 1 drugs (cannabis, heroin, ecstasy, PCP, meth) for ANY reason, including medical. Don't believe me? Google: Title VII Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998: H11225: Responsibilities. (12). The information that office supplies is inaccurate and the statistics are slanted. They are NOT required to tell the truth.
The bad law is the law that persecutes people like Charles Lynch for helping patients. His dispensary was the only one in his entire county. Now patients have to drive 100 miles away to legally, under California law, buy cannabis.
I've met with the offices of my Senators and I have an appointment with my House of Representative's office tomorrow. Things have to change. The jails are overcrowded with cannabis-only prisoners; we spend billions on cannabis prohibition when cannabis could generate billions more in taxes; federal laws are the most dangerous aspect of cannabis, don't believe me? Ask Charles Lynch, he will tell you the truth.

Sent by Herbalicious | 2:02 AM | 8-20-2008

Food for thought:

Police arrested a record 829,625 persons for marijuana violations in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. This is the largest total number of annual arrests for pot ever recorded by the FBI. Marijuana arrests now comprise nearly 44 percent of all drug arrests in the United States

According to NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana):
"Marijuana possession and sales arrests disproportionately impact black adults. African Americans are among the demographic groups most adversely impacted by marijuana law enforcement. While adult African Americans account for only 8.8% of the US population and 11.9% of annual marijuana users, they comprise 23% of all marijuana possession arrests in the United States."

According to Forbes.com:
"The U.S. marijuana is a $113 billion annual business that costs taxpayers $41.8 billion in enforcement costs and lost tax revenues..."

Sent by Grant | 11:59 AM | 8-20-2008

Cannabis is NOT a "Gateway Drug", at least Not the way the Prohibitionists wish you to think.

I have personally met more than one patient/person who have used Cannabis therapeutically to curb the terrible withdrawals from heroin, alcohol, meth and cocaine, just to mention a few. One person successfully stopped Nicotine by weaning off of it with the use of Cannabis.

Cannabis Is a Gateway drug AWAY from actual harmful substances.

Sent by friedaMae | 1:35 PM | 8-20-2008

I think it is crazy that the goverment can have someone get in so much trouble for smoking pot- not a threat to anyone except your refrigerator- and the government can at the same time dictate a heroin user to take methadone that destroys the body and has you completely drugged all day long just from one dose- but you can legally work and drive as if its tylenol! Something doesn't add up here...

Sent by Alicen | 3:24 PM | 8-20-2008

It all comes down to the three goals of health care: 1)Prolong life 2)Alleviate suffering and 3) Optimize the patient's quality of life (which is defined by the patient or surrogate if needed). Following this criteria, marijuana should be allowed at least for medical purposes.
If a doctor would prescribe it- why should the patient not be able to take it?

Sent by Ben | 3:32 PM | 8-20-2008

We listened intently to this Weed report because my wife and I were recently busted for growing marijuana, which we felt was for medicinal purposes. We felt we were doing a service for humanity, but after a week in jail, we realized the government viewed us solely as drug dealers and criminals. Many friends told us we were on the wrong coast. Certainly the situation in California is more tolerant than the East coast, but even there the Federal Government continues its war on a medically therapeutic and harmless herb. In Canada and the Netherlands, the National Health plan provides medical cannabis to qualified patients. America does not even have a National Health Plan.Finally, we agree the Federal Laws are not likely to change, since conservative elements in America even oppose evolution, and won't listen to science.

Sent by Sad in Philadelphia | 11:39 PM | 8-20-2008

I can't believe that the Federal Government and the DEA are spending our tax dollars to fight something as harmless as Marijuana. What about the heroin, crack and meth epidemics? What about the gang violence that IS California right now. You mean to tell me that by legalizing Marijuana there will be more fatalities than Alcohol or Tobacco? I think not. I say the DEA needs to find something worth doing or WE, the people, should cut their funding! There are some incredibly ignorant people in way too powerful of positions.

Sent by Vance LAW | 1:24 PM | 8-21-2008

When this program aired there was more information, as well as more insinuations. In particular there was the statement that only half the people getting prescriptions for medical marijuana had serious illnesses like cancer, glaucoma, etc. And there was the insinuation and emphasis that people with "other" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) illnesses were part of of high chasing drug culture.

First, a disservice was done to the legitimate needs of that majority with serious illnesses.

Second, a disservice was done to people with less serious illnesses who find that this natural medicinal herb is less debilitating than many pharmaceuticals. Some less serious illnesses include psychological suffering.

Third, a disservice was done to casual pot users, many of whom are not trying to get high, but use pot much as many people will have a beer after work or a brandy after dinner. Just as most people who drink don't continually drink to get drunk, most pot users don't smoke to stay high.

A last consideration is that the cost of putting people in jail for smoking pot is ridiculously high -- in taxpayer dollars, in lost productivity (and taxed legal income), in the social structure of families, and in the development of the individual who learns criminal behavior in jail instead of learning to be a member of society.

We have 10 times as many people in jail per capita as England does! When I had Grand Jury duty, two thirds of those felony cases involved Felony Drunk Driving, simple possession of hard drugs, or growing pot.

The fastest growing industry in the US is prisons! We spend more on jails than schools. Rehab is less expensive than jail and more effective. Prevention, such as free rehab, is much less expensive than punishment (and let's not call it "corrections").

Regarding the problem of how decriminalizing pot, or using it medically, would affect insurance, we need a national health program so people won't be denied health care anyway. The VA, insurance companies, Workers' Comp (or more correctly Employers' Liability Insurance), etc, all like to claim pre-existing conditions, it's not my responsibility, or that "the other guy did it".

And if we stopped jailing people for pot and minor infractions we could afford a health care program, and probably even keep lots of those same people employed pushing similar pencils for health care.

The immediate benefits in legalizing pot and providing free (minimal) medical care might be for the poor and disenfranchised, but just as with free basic education, the benefits to all of society (and eventually to the corporations who sell to all of us), would be greatest.

And all this doesn't even begin to address the benefits of taxing pot.

I don't smoke (anything), drink alcohol (recovering alcoholic for 18 years), or drug (even back in the 60s and 70s). Pot doesn't appeal to me. But I see its benefits for several medical conditions. It also has some significant benefits psychologically, especially for anxiety and for some kinds of Depression (but not mine). Since Depression is primarily a matter of over-stimulation (with melancholy being a reaction to that), pot is especially useful for Depression caused by the constant stimulation experienced by chronic pain sufferers.

And the DEA? I think the DEA is a paramilitary organization that runs rough shod over anyone who gets in the way of its agenda. And I think jailing people often harms society more than ignoring some use, and does tremendously more damage than rehab. I also think cracking down on growers forces users to get pot from dangerous sources.

Sent by Tina Peterson | 6:41 PM | 8-22-2008

As a young person who has many pot-smoking friends and many friends who drink, I have witnessed an interesting trend. People who smoke "too much" weed are generally lazier or more quiet and introspective, whereas people who drink "too much" alcohol are generally more aggressive and loud. I have two close lady friends who were abused by drunken boyfriends, but I have never heard of someone getting "too high" and then violently assaulting their partner. Just an observation

Sent by Michigan student | 6:53 PM | 8-22-2008

When My Husband was battling CANCER he was VERY SICK when going through Chemo Treatments. The Doctors prescribed an anti-Nausea Medication that cost over $600.00 for just a few pills that DIDNT WORK AT ALL so we Decided to try LEGAL MARIJUANA AND IT WAS A MIRICLE!!!! AMAZING!! I RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE THAT BATTLING NAUSEA DUE TO CHEMO TREATMENTS. I wonder if Liquor would have had the same affect as MARIJUANA? Dont think So, But Its Legal and One more thought goes with that "MADD". Just doesnt add up! Just look at how much money was made on Taxing Medical Marijuana in just One Year! THANKYOU! GOD BLESS!

Sent by Cindy Bates | 10:52 PM | 8-29-2008

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