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.