Is All Marijuana Use Medical?


The July 28 issue of The New Yorker includes a subtle, honest, and absorbing account of the gray market created by California's legalization of medical marijuana. Author David Samuels hangs out with a pot-wholesaling buddy for six months and through him meets growers, mules, dispensary operators, and patients. Samuels candidly describes how easy it is to get a doctor's recommendation (he gets one for "anxiety and depression") but at the same time offers reasons to wonder whether that should be considered a problem:

"People are talking about how it's being over-recommended and abused," [a defense attorney specializing in marijuana cases] said. "I mean, big fucking deal. It's not toxic!"…

Like many other dispensary owners I spoke with, Cindy derives particular satisfaction from providing medication to people who suffer from chronic diseases. Although she suspects that there is nothing seriously wrong with many of the young men who come in to buy an eighth of L.A. Confidential, she doesn't regard marijuana as a harmful drug when compared with Xanax, Valium, Prozac, and other pills that are commonly prescribed by physicians to treat vague complaints of anxiety or dysphoria….

Though [a doctor who writes recommendations] was always careful to observe the letter of California state law, he said, "My personal belief is that marijuana is a useful and relatively harmless substance and that adults should be free to choose whether they want to use it or not." 

When adults have that freedom, the world that Samuels describes, in which marijuana carries a load of cultural and political baggage that has little to with its intrinsic properties, will no longer exist.

Greg Beato covered California's medical marijuana scene for reason last year.