Susie Bright: The Story Behind Pot Medicine

200812191704 Today, on my In Bed podcast, I interview Wendy Chapkis, author of Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine.

Wendy and her co-author Richard Webb conducted extensive interviews with members of WAMM (The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana) - the patient collective that exemplifies the "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" ethos when it comes to pot medicine.

In this excerpt, Wendy talks a bit about how boring ole' cannabis became demon "mari-juana," in D.E.A. history.

Listen to an excerpt

Read an introduction to Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine (PDF).

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)


  1. I am a regular reader and infrequent commenter here. Because I use cannabis to treat neuropathic pain from thalamic damage and now live in a non-medical mj state I must comment anonymously.

    Five years ago I lived in Washington state and had my neurologist’s legal ok to use mj legally. I was the only patient he’d ever authorized to use it because it so clearly reduced my pain and seizure count.

    Seattle’s Green Cross Patient Co-op is a wonderful group, providing a safe place to buy and to learn how to grow.

    There is a ton of googlable crap about mj’s benefits. Some people think it’s a magical mystical gift from the FSM or his ilk.

    Cannabis just happens to produce a chemical that closely mimics key molecules in our endocannabanoid system:

    I usually “smoke” my medicine in a vaporizer to reduce inhaled toxins. Leafy marijuana is not an ideal medicine for me but I am thankful it works as well as it does.

    I hope Obama removes the legal restrictions on endocannabanoid research. I’d love a medicine with fewer side effects, a medicine I can carry over state lines, a medicine I don’t need to worry about losing my house over.

    Arrest the pain – not the patient.

  2. I too am a medical cannabis user. I currently reside in California where we have medical cannabis laws.

    Our Govt does not want their people to know the truth and in herald of the change of presidencey there have been two bogus “Marijuana Psychosis” flares in the media in the last 2 weeks.

    Granny Storm Crow has put together a long list of published studies on cannabis and a number of medical issues it’s recommended for.
    Do a search for Medical Cannabis Storm Crow and you’ll find her at the top of the list.

    Support the organizations in YOUR state that support the passage of medical cannabis laws and allow relief to be brought to you and your neighbors.


  3. It’s unfortunate that preserving the large and profitable business of a “war on drugs” is a greater concern to the U.S. government than the health and well being of its citizens. This is a constant fight when greed takes hold of public policy. In Canada we stand on the brink of sanity with our laws – and must remain ever vigilant in opposition to those forces which seek to emulate the practices and motives of the drug war economy. From outside of the U.S. we see relentless horror stories of abuse – but we also heartening albeit incremental change. It is a fight worth fighting and one which citizens around the world must support and take part in regardless of what has been deemed “illegal” for reasons of ideology, theology or just plain greed – it is the fundamental right to care for our bodies and attend to the needs of our loved ones. Sanity will prevail – in time. Let’s all hpe we get there soon.


  4. There are a lot of people who need the benefit of medicinal cannabis. WAMM does a great job helping those who need something to counter nausea and increase their appetite, or relax muscles without using pharma products that have nasty side effects. I’ve heard it also calms Altzheimer’s agita. Not for everyone, but having it legally dispensed could help many.

  5. All I can say is that the problem of medical marijuana is at the beginning of its end:

    I suspect that the State of California has already started building their budgets under assumptions of fairly hefty taxes paid by legal growers of medical marijuana. No way they can afford to go back, and soon other states will start to notice and crave the economic benefits.

    There will, of course, be certain states that hold out against it, but I think it’s a downhill battle from hill, albeit likely a long one.

  6. …or relax muscles without using pharma products that have nasty side effects…

    Brother, is that part an important talking point.

    The most commonly prescribed muscle relaxant is Carisoprodol. It’s a prodrug which is metabolized into substances with a strong potential for addiction and a severe, severe withdrawal profile.

    By severe, I mean that the withdrawals associated with the addiction caused by prolonged use can be fatal.

    Now, imagine yourself as a doctor attempting to prescribe a relaxant as part of a treatment plan for a chronic pain condition. Do you prescribe something that can kill your patient if they run out of medication?

    Analgesics in particular have advanced a lot in terms of developments that improve their delivery or potentiate their effects… but in terms of dealing with chronic pain conditions the prognosis for a patient being treated with traditional pharmaceutical methods is still fraught with problems, not the least of which is becoming addicted to one or more of the drugs you have to take to dull the pain.

    That alone has to make you stop and think about medical marijuana. Here we are with so many people opposing the use of a relatively benign drug, because they maintain fears of the potential for its abuse… while at the same time the traditional alternative is to give people drugs that they readily become addicted to. Is this not backwards?

    Rush Limbaugh rather effectively demonstrated how easy it can be for some people to become ensnared in addiction to pain-relieving drugs. Meanwhile, people are up in arms about treating the pain with an inexpensive, non-addictive substance which the patients can grow in their own home, at no cost to society at large.

    That immunity to rational thought, and dogged adherence to histrionics, is troubling.

  7. It’s unfortunate that preserving the large and profitable business of a “war on drugs” is a greater concern to the U.S. government than the health and well being of its citizens. This is a constant fight when greed takes hold of public policy.

    I’d like to point out that the same problem exists for the FDA and synthetic drugs.

    “Social morality” is trumping positive science.
    People used to burn witches because of that.

    Why the FDA Has an Incentive to Delay the Introduction of New Drugs

    FDA drug reviewers are immune from legal liability, but they may be reproached and humiliated by congressional hearings, television exposés, and newspaper condemnations. Why don’t congressional representatives, television reporters, and newspaper columnists bring the deadly consequences of FDA delay to light? Answer: When the side effects of a new drug cause little Tommy of 236 Elm Street, Saginaw, Michigan, to become gravely ill, television reporters show the poor lad languishing in a hospital bed, and viewers respond emotionally. When little Tommy dies, reporters interview the grieving parents. Blame falls on the drug company, on the FDA officials who approved an unsafe drug, and maybe on the doctor. FDA reviewers are anxious to avoid such censure, which might damage their careers and reputations.

    The consequences of error in the other direction, however, are not symmetric. If little Tommy suffered from a disease that would be cured by a drug not yet allowed by the FDA, it is unlikely that Tommy’s parents or doctors would even be aware of that fact. If they heard about the not yet allowed drug and inquired into its availability, the FDA may simply say that it “must hold the unproved drug until safety questions and risks to the public health are resolved.” No one who could counter such claims would be in a position to do so. Thus, the bad consequences of disallowing the drug would not be identifiable and would not revisit the FDA. In consequence, FDA officials are much less concerned about such consequences. Only in rare cases in which suffering patients have been well organized and vocal, in particular in AIDS cases, have FDA officials taken much heat for withholding approval. Even then the heat is not extreme because the FDA officials can always claim that they are simply doing their job in delaying the approval of experimental drugs. Researchers have long noted that in anxiously seeking to avoid risk of approving an unsafe drug, FDA officials often fall deeply into the inverse error: disallowing valuable drugs. Figure 3 shows the two types of error and indicates the reason for systematic bias toward type 2 errors.

    Type 2 Error:
    Disallowing a beneficial drug. Victims are not identifiable and scarcely even acknowledged in the abstract. Error is not self-correcting

  8. perhaps a way to ensure the speedy repeal of evil laws that exist to profit the few is to see to it that all the children of the powerful are saddled with marijuana convictions. You don’t have to force it into them, just take and publish pictures of what they are all already doing.

  9. Awesome post, awesome comments!
    I live in southern Germany where possessing small amounts of cannabis is decriminalized. Though it’s still illegal and that sucks…
    It’s a shame that so many people frown upon such an effective and harmless drug.

  10. I remember when that came out. I’m not surprised at all that a criminal system for “approving” drugs is still stalling it.

    Been following the FDA and bisphenol A?

  11. the FDA is a sham, when Rummy wanted to get approval for Aspartame, all he had to do was pay the right folk down there, and viola’! near instant approval for a substance that is a known carcinogen. ask any senator what they think about medical maryjane, and they will tell you flat out that there is no medicinal value. period. even when several dr.’s org.s approve it, and every single study shows its efficacy. the latest studies show that it not only helps alzheimer’s patients with their symptoms, but actually helps stop, and in some cases reverse the growth of the amyloid proteins that create the plaque which causes the disease, thereby preventing the disease from forming! when a tincture of cannabis flowers was placed on a slide which contained healthy brain cells and cancerous brain cells, the THC attacked and killed 100% of the cancerous cells, while leaving the healthy cells alone. cannabis flower oil is what the hebrew used to annoint their priests in the time of jeebus. the constitution, declaration of independence, and the original betsey ross flag were all made from the plant fibers, as well as the original levi’s jeans. talk about :”can’t bust ’em”! can i get an OW!OW!?

  12. I of course sympathize with people who would wish to legally use marijuana in a medicinal fashion. However, this recent focus on legalization of the plant for sufferers of malady is not at all helpful to the vast majority of partakers: those of us who just like to get high.

    This lovely weed – while being able to dull pain and increase appetite, is no more a “medicine” than is beer, wine or maybe a good scotch. To attempt to define it as medicine, is only to increase its already terrible reputation, and to justify its continuance as a potentially hazardous and therefore controlled, substance.

    The end result of the push for medicinal mj will be Merck and Pfizer running corporate farms, and ridiculous, legal-liability-driven prices for a pharmaceutical “product” that any fool might otherwise grow quite successfully in her own basement or back yard; And when the day comes that the plant is legalized for prescription use only, I’ll bet you fifty joints that criminal laws regarding “unlicensed” possession, use and/or cultivation, will become even more brutal than they currently exist as. Big Pharma will not tolerate competition from Joe the dope farmer.

    Again; I feel yer pain my sick brothers and sisters, but marijuana as medicine is not at all beneficial to the majority of users.

    The focus of marijuana decriminalization needs to remain true to its roots – we must continue to fight the current illegality of growing and ingesting certain “bad” plants, based only on what the issue truly exists as: a massive violation of our constitutional rights.

    The prohibition on marijuana must end, but classifying the plant as medicine does not get us any closer to sanity.

  13. I support the use of medical marijuana, but this issue has been used foolishly by the legalization folks. All the pot smokers in America shouldn’t hide behind this, they should just get to the heart of the matter and assert it is not the business of anyone what they use. All the pot smokers should go out tomorrow and light up down at the police station. American society when confronted with civil disobediance would change the drug laws.

  14. Come on up to BC- we got the best stuff out there!

    I agree that it ought to be legalised: the whole war on drugs has taken a huge toll in resources and lives in this whole hemisphere, and it’s high time it stopped. I’d be perfectly happy with a situation similar to what we have with alcohol (a bit different than that in the States) and tobacco.

    As for its medicinal value, good luck getting that admitted to by the pharmas. Anything that threatens their dominance in the pain-relief market will be lobbied into oblivion ASAP. My wife is allergic to acetaminophen: the best painkiller for her? Alcohol, hands down. Has this turned her into a total lush, or a drunken slob? Not at all- a healthy adult can easily process 250ml of wine a day without any side effects. Unlike most drugs out there, we have thousands of years’ worth of data on natural substances like alcohol and wacky tobacky.

  15. As for its medicinal value, good luck getting that admitted to by the pharmas. Anything that threatens their dominance in the pain-relief market will be lobbied into oblivion ASAP.

    A pretty large number of opium poppy fields are operated either by pharmaceutical companies or contractors of pharmaceutical companies, to be harvested and processed into opiate/opiod/etc. painkillers.

    To think that these companies would not be the first people with the necessary clout and capital to set up a similar system for marijuana is folly.

    Yes, they might be resistant to the notion, but if the tide is flowing in that direction you can bet they’ll be the first people to get into the business on a large scale once a sufficiently sizable market has opened up.

  16. Screw the Pharmas, there are much better farmers, with better morals, who would arise upon simple cheap repeal of the prohibition, to produce better cheaper reefer for what ails ya, pilgrim.
    And if y’all are already feelin’ fine, you’d all be feelin’ finer, smokin’ cheap and legal weed from Carolina, in the mornin’…
    PS If the “war on Drugs” were for real, wouldn’t the tobacco farmers be having their crops eradicated by helicopter gunships, spraying poisons on their crop?
    I mean tobacco is a US-produced and marketed state-subsidized killer addictive drug, is it not?

  17. Well, perhaps the above should state “…was it not?”, in all fairness to the great States to our South.

  18. A pretty large number of opium poppy fields are operated either by pharmaceutical companies or contractors of pharmaceutical companies, to be harvested and processed into opiate/opiod/etc. painkillers.

    To think that these companies would not be the first people with the necessary clout and capital to set up a similar system for marijuana is folly.

    The reason why opium and heroin are imported while a significant amount of marijuana on the underground market is grown domestically, is that it’s virtually impossible to clandestinely grow enough poppies to make enough of the drug for human consumption, while it’s relatively easy to do so for marijuana.

    Drug companies aren’t interested because they’d never have a lock on the market.

    Conversely, if we had a revolution in high-performance drug discovery, synthesis, and bioseparations by pro-sumers, (akin to open hardware and open-source software), drug companies would be in a similar bind for all of their current products.

    Throw pharmacogenomics into the mix and there’s a real likelihood that pharmaceuticals will eventually have to be mass customized.

    Such a revolution would be like the personal computing revolution and Internet were to IBM and Ma Bell.

  19. First I am for legalization of of all medication period, when I lived in the US without insurance more than once I had to use antibiotics I purchased in bulk from a chemical supply firm. Pot is a herb so is outside even USP quality controls that might be reasonable for chemical medicines.

    #13 It is curious how a few years ago it was claimed that weed was the smoke rising herb, an additional ingredient along with the eleven secret herbs and spices in the temple incense mentioned in the talmud which people claimed was MJ, now the shemen meschika, that is clearly named as olive oil. BTW during the second temple the smoke rising herb was lost. see masecta Yoma in the Jerusalem Talmud

  20. 18 years ago I started smoking pot, and stopped stuttering. Something 10 years of speech therapy never made a dent in.

    That’s my anecdotal data point.

  21. I guess I’m just an Old Fart who never quite got over being in San Francisco in the summer of 1967 at the age of 19, & I can’t seem to be able to adjust to the way things are done now, but… you expecting me to pay 6 bucks to listen to you talk about marijuana… well, it takes my breath away. It really offends me. I mean I love irony, but this is ridiculous. OK, I love ridiculous, but this is fucked up.
    I was thinking that I liked you. As a professional pornographer, I sympathetically reflexively immediately applauded you & your alleged heroism on the front lines of the battle for free speech & all that good shit.
    And these days, one is supposed to able to make a living just by being clever on the Internet.
    When the Internet came into being, I really thought everything would become free, not just as in Free Speech, but also as in Free Beer; & then the Economy As We Knew It would collapse & we would be able to get on to the Next Economy, whatever that would turn out to be. Oh sure, you give us an excerpt for free, which is mighty white of you, but 6 bucks for what? How long is it (the eternal question) & how brilliant are you? So how much Brilliance Per Second would I be getting for my 6 dollars?
    But I’m a really good listener. In a World This Perfect, it seems like I ought to get like a buck or so just for listening to it for you, right?
    Let’s just say your credibility is shot with me, whatever that’s worth (that & 4 bucks will get you a latté). This is not the future I was promised.

    Sincerely,(deeply, madly, fervently)
    Larry Welz

  22. It’s all about CELLULOSE! Drugs are the side show, the distraction, the excuse to outlaw it. It was outlawed because cannabis produces 4 times the cellulose, per acre, that trees do and it takes a small fraction of the chemistry to turn it into paper. Half the forests of the world have been ground into paper as a direct result of prohibition! Read “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer. The entire text of the book is online. The actual book is half filled with photocopied references.
    “…the revenue raising power of government may be converted to an instrument for FORCING ACCEPTANCE of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization…” – DuPont 1937 Annual Report. (emphasis added)

  23. The reason why opium and heroin are imported while a significant amount of marijuana on the underground market is grown domestically, is that it’s virtually impossible to clandestinely grow enough poppies to make enough of the drug for human consumption, while it’s relatively easy to do so for marijuana.

    You might be fairly surprised, actually. It is, admittedly, damned hard to grow poppies indoors (don’t bother, really). However, anyone with a back yard can easily get away with growing a vast quantity of poppies.

    While people are often aware of what kind of poppies are being grown, they’re quite likely not to care. They’re a common decorative flower and there are a fair number of the friendly-old-grandmother sort of gardeners in the world with a pretty significant amount of opium being produced and left unused in their yards.

    A small plot with the right breed of poppy can produce a surprising quantity of yield. Perhaps not enough to smoke every day for the same period of time as if you grew marijuana in the same space, but: 1- you can get away with growing poppies openly, unlike marijuana; and 2- responsible use of opium entails far less frequent consumption (as a safety against addictive side effects), so a small quantity can be said to last a longer time.

    The above is pertaining to recreational use, of course. I am strictly against the medicinal use of opiates for chronic pain conditions. The addiction risk is simply unacceptable. (yes: perversely, I feel recreational use is less risky than medicinal use)

  24. From the book: Pocket Partner, Auth. Evers* miller* glover* glover.
    Printed in the U.S.A.
    Library of congress catalog number 00131473

    This book is for young cadet police use, hence the name pocket partner. It outlines everything from how to say put your hands up in spanish, to how to handle a hazmat spill. etc.

    Page 370 Under “Substance Abuse”
    And I quote

    Controlled Substances Act SCHEDULE I (SEE PG. 382)

    Medical Uses: ……..Chronic pain treatment for serious illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis. Legal to grow/use with a prescription in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Other states have laws that suppor medical marijuana, but no legal patient protection under the law.

    Dependence: ………
    Physical: Unknown
    Psychological: Moderate
    Tolerance: Yes
    Duration: ……………..2-4hours
    Usual Method: ……….Oral, Smoked”

    Schedule I out of I, II, III, IV, V. With 5/IV being Xanax and Valium (strong legal drugs) and Schedule I being strong illegal drugs like Heroin, acid, and Marijuana? (((Rated above Schedule II drugs like morphine, PCP, cocaine, and meth???)))

    And I quote:
    “Schedule I Drug & Substance Characteristics
    *Has a high potential for abuse.
    *Has no current acceptable medical treatment use in the US.
    *Lack of accepted safety under medical supervision.
    *Examples: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, and methaqualone.”

    From the very book handed to those sent to arrest.

    People use it to heal themselves for almost free.
    People use it to relax themselves like a cold beer or cocktail on a friday after a hard week of work.
    50% of all people 16 and up say they have used marijuana, what about the rest of them who dont want to say? Shall we arrest half the population?
    No law should be more harm than the supposed crime itself. The entire “criminal element” that spawns from marijuana is because of it being illegal.
    Who has the right to say what an adult person in a free country can do with themselves in the comfort of their own home. Especially when it when it doesnt bother or harm a single person?
    Right and wrong, it seems, does not equal legal and illegal…

  25. Cannabis should be regulated in the same way that we regulate the growing and distribution of tomatoes.

  26. larrywelz, I’m sure that comment would be more appropriate if it were posted at the website which is asking you for the money (suzie’s) rather than here.

    Speaking as someone born 4 years after your relevatory summer of ’69:

    peace and love larrywelz, ur doing it wrong.

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