Four Things Not To Say To A Medical Marijuana Patient

Muraco Kyashna-Tocha, 49, of Seattle, has grown marijuana legally since 1999. Kyashna-Tocha has had five neck and back surgeries and said that using marijuana manages her pain enough so she can engage in daily life. Photo by Chris Joseph Taylor/The Seattle Times

By Steve Elliott

If you happen to be a medical marijuana patient like me, you’re well aware that there are lots of folks who still harbor some enormous moral judgments about cannabis and those who use it medically — even in the states where it is legal.

If you aren’t a patient, chances are you may either already know one, or soon will. As the acceptance of the medical use of pot grows, so does the number of patients choosing this option.

So let’s talk about those moral judgments.

Medical marijuana patients are too often given to understand that we should somehow feel vaguely guilty about the relief that we get through using the herb.

We are given, intentionally or not, little cues which seem to carry the message “You are a little less than entirely acceptable to polite society.”

To some of us, that feels a lot like “Why don’t those people just stay at home?”

While “interacting” with a proudly ignorant Twitter user today, I was freshly reminded of this unfortunate dynamic, and it got me thinking about the same old tired, threadbare judgments and stereotypes that patients must deal with, over and over and over again.

Sometimes the attitudes manifest themselves a little more subtly.

Such was the case with a prominent social media maven who, just this week, quoted me chapter and verse of YouTube regulations regarding “animal abuse and drug abuse.”

What brought that on? I jokingly mentioned the possibility of my doing the first-ever on-camera bong hit on his show.

It’s a sobering thought to me that there are still people who would equate any use of marijuana – even legal, medicinal use – as being roughly equivalent morally to torturing kittens.

Sobering and revealing, as in showing how much work we still have left to do.

Be that as it may, many of us just aren’t into apologizing for being medical marijuana patients.

We don’t see any need to be ashamed of our decision to replace harsh corporate pharmaceuticals, or to at least be able to cut down on their use, by using medical cannabis.

In the interest of furthering potiquette and harmonious interaction, here are four things that you might not want to say to medical marijuana patients.

1) “You’re refusing to leave puberty and enter adulthood. When I grew up, I stopped doing childish things, like using DRUGS.”

Yeah… They’re really still saying that, as if choosing not to be constantly nauseated and in pain is somehow indicative of some deep character defect.

You’d think that it’s “grown up” enough to take charge of your own health, your own body, and your own decisions.

It seems quite “adult” to me to do my own research, draw my own conclusions, and choose my own medicine.

But I guess what they really mean is, “I’m more grown up than you, because the federal government approves of all the drugs I take (caffeine, alcohol, aspirin, tobacco, Valium, Vicodin, Viagra, etc., etc.), whereas you smoke pot.”

The fact that using cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation is now legal in 14 states should theoretically poke a big hole in this argument… But since when has something as silly as logic entered into a topic carrying as much emotional baggage as marijuana?

Besides, for the foreseeable future (due to the spineless nature of most career politicians), the “Killer Weed” contingent is going to have the “But it’s still against federal law” argument.

They love using that one, which is probably why they’re so mad at President Obama for pledging not to thwart state laws legalizing medical marijuana.

2) But what kind of an example are you setting for “the kids”?

Sooner or later, discussions about the legalization of medical marijuana always seem to come back to this one.

The question often arises from perfectly good intentions, but reveals a somewhat peculiar worldview: That we should somehow be able to make the entire world, all of existence, into a safe, comforting, “G”-rated Disney film.

Well, first of all, that’s just not possible, and secondly, trying to do so invariably results in not a safer world for kids, but in less freedom of choice for adults.

Here’s a novel idea, when it comes to talking to kids about medical marijuana:

Tell them the truth.

Why is it so unthinkable to just tell kids, “Cannabis helps some sick people feel better”?

Wouldn’t we be better equipping our kids for the world, for their future, by telling them the facts, rather than some untenably sanitized version thereof?

3) Can you get me some good pot?

This happens to me, probably more often than you’d believe.

The answer is no, I can’t get you any weed.

If I did that, I’d be jeopardizing my own legal right to use and possess medical marijuana, which means I’d have to choose between feeling sick most of the time, or risking jail.

Don’t get me wrong; nothing would make me happier than for you to get all the pot you want.

Because I personally am of the opinion that medical marijuana patients, even in states that have nominally legalized it, will never be truly, entirely safe until it is legal for all adults.

Why is this? Many law enforcement officials just aren’t ready to give up the fight.

California and other states distribute “official training material” telling officers that marijuana is not a medicine, it’s all just a ruse, and it’s nothing but potheads looking for an excuse to get high.

(Never mind that all of this is in direct contradiction of the stated position of the American Medical Association: “Short term controlled trails indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake, especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”)

Those are the negative attitudes officers then take to the streets – and I can tell you, they aren’t conducive to treating ill patients with caring and respect.

Those attitudes, unless and until they change, are the reason that (a) I can’t get you any pot; and (b) It should be legal for all adults.

Those attitudes are conducive, unfortunately, to looking for an excuse – any excuse – to bust medical marijuana patients, because they’re “getting away with something they shouldn’t.”

I’m not going to give law enforcement any help finding that excuse.

So, until the day pot is legalized across the board, I’m sorry. I can’t get you any weed. Don’t embarrass both of us by asking.

4) Is pot your only concern? Why don’t you talk about something else, for a change?

I feel slightly silly even having to point this out… But being willing to take a stand, being passionately involved in, engaged with, and committed to a cause, doesn’t mean you don’t care about anything else.

In fact, it likely means just the opposite.

I’d be delighted to talk about something else.

And I promise I will, as soon as medical marijuana patients everywhere have safe and legal access to the medicine that works best for them, without fear of arrest.

Until then, I don’t plan on shutting up.


This is the second week of a new daily series on News Junkie Post known as the Progressive Unity Project. Every day, there will be a new article published from the perspective of the environment/ecosystem, labor/unions, LGBT, immigration reform, science, legalization of marijuana, or secularity.

Legalization Saturday
Steve Elliott, a journalist since the 1980s, is based near Seattle, Washington.He worked for newspapers in Alabama and Mississippi before moving to the West Coast in 1999. While living in the Los Angeles area, Elliott edited two trade magazines, Business Fleet and F&I Management and Technology, until 2004.

Steve Elliott has written extensively for the S.F. Weekly, Eyes On Obama, and OpEd News. He now edits the Village Voice Media cannabis site, Toke of the Town. Steve online:   Twitter Digg

Editor’s Note: Please follow The News Junkie Post on Twitter.


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