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Patch Blog: Are Medical Marijuana 'Patients' Recreational Users?

A lot of people say medical marijuana patients are just abusing the system to have fun—but here's what the evidence says.

I’d like to question an assertion often made by those who favor a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries: That most of our patients are actually not ill and that they’re just recreational smokers abusing the system.

I’ve heard the claim that as many as 95 percent of medical marijuana patients aren’t really sick. The problem with these statements is that not a single one is ever backed up by any hard data—because there isn’t any.

The only serious study ever done of patients—by UC Santa Cruz recently—revealed that half of the sample studied had been taking prescriptions drugs for health problems and had either found them ineffective or hated the side-effects. But people in this sample learned that marijuana might alleviate their symptoms, prompting them to switch over to marijuana and find relief. Another 30 percent said they’d heard about the negative impact of prescription drugs on their health, which was why they used cannabis and found it effective.

The other thing that is striking about people who say medical marijuana patients aren’t really sick is that it’s pretty obvious that these people haven’t talked with a cross section of the patients. Because I’m not a marijuana user, there was a time when I really didn’t know whether most patients were legitimate, so without revealing that I was considering working for a patient association, I talked to a number of its members and heard a lot of heartfelt stories.

But, say the critics, medical marijuana patients are mostly in their 20s and 30s—and they sure look healthy. Actually, a lot of young people today suffer from clinical depression, severe anxiety and insomnia, which should be no big surprise, given that their parents are divorced and that they have a huge student loan debt, not to mention no job prospects, failed personal relationships, severe loneliness—their very world seems on the verge of apocalypse.

Society says taking prescription drugs for these problems is OK—so why not medical marijuana?

Yes, we don’t like the physicians who hand out recommendations for cannabis very liberally because it taints the image of our community. But the worst that happens is someone gets high—instead of well.

I think it’s kind of silly to believe that recreational users would go to the trouble of getting a physician recommendation and join a patient association—after all, weed has always been very easily available in L.A.

But if you believe that most medical marijuana patients are merely recreational, then you’re saying that a ban won’t work because the patients are just going go back to the bad old days of having to buy on the street illegally.

Let’s not dramatically drive crime statistics higher because we were rushed into a ban by a City Attorney whose primary goal is to get this done so he doesn’t have to deal with the lawsuits that he instigated by turning the City’s original ordinance into a de facto ban at the eleventh hour.

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Scott Smith February 07, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Barry was asking me if you and I had talked about your opinion of what was going on in ER, especially which were the really legit dispensaries. I forgot to give you my phone 310-254-4051. Call me anytime after 6 am to deal with my New York editors in the job that pays the alimony. We just discovered something important about the ban that we expect to be announcing tomorrow.
Peter Choi February 07, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Mr. Larsen, you have neatly sidestepped the central question of where senior citizens are supposed to get their medicinal marijuana if the clinics are shut down for an extended indefinite period of time. That said, I have no further interest in your transparent sarcasm and cold cynicism to the less fortunate in our community. Have a nice day.
Michael Larsen February 07, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Mr. Choi, my comments where not intended to be sarcastic or cynical at all. It's interesting that you read them that way. It might say something about your real concerns here. The elderly and infirm who choose to use marijuana medicinally can get it from the sources that are allowed by California law. That is they can grow it, have a qualified caregiver grow it for them or join a collective and participate in collective cultivation of the drug. What they cannot do is buy it, and what they should do is make sure they know exactly how it is grown and handled for their own safety. That is the law in California, like it or not. That said, they will continue to be exposed to the risk of federal prosecution for participating in any of this activity. I hope that answers your question. If not, there is plenty of information on the internet regarding this subject.
Rob Schraff February 07, 2012 at 04:58 AM
And, seeing as Mr. Larsen has already called in the Feds on medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, there can be no doubt that he would be the first to turn granny in. So, really, Mr. Larsen's position is no medical marijuana for any patients, anywhere, any time - despite his repeated slick assurances that he just wants "reasonable regulation." And Mr. Larsen, if the clinics are all already illegal (and you are so certain that you know the result of future state court and legislative action as yet unknown to the rest of us!) why aren't the LAPD doing their job and simply closing them down? And why do we need Mr Huizar's motion banning all clinics if they are already banned? Something is tied up in knots here, Mr. Larsen, and I think it's your logic. Anyway, with this worldview, and your fascination with drinking, swearing and "illicit" sex, perhaps you would - with all due respect to your many contributions to Northeast Los Angeles - be happier if you moved back to Texas or Utah?
Patrick Duff February 22, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Mr. Larsen, since you are such an expert in marijuana laws can you tell what the word "affordable" means in Prop 215? It's to bad that you aren't honest and say what your real intentions are. To wipe Mr. Huizar's ass with your nose.

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