cover image Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine

Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine

Wendy Chapkis, Richard J. Webb. New York University Press, $71 (257pp) ISBN 978-0-8147-1666-3

Sociologist Chapkis (Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor) and educator Webb chronicle the experiences of caregivers, patients and local officials in the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a nonprofit formed in the wake of California's ""Compassionate Use Act of 1996"" dedicated to education, research and providing cannabis to patients suffering from ""chronic and life-threatening illnesses."" Focusing on cannabis's benefits to the seriously ill, the authors investigate many aspects of this complicated issue, including marijuana cooperatives versus big pharma, the power of making one's own health care decisions, and the implications of alternative medicine's growing mainstream cachet. Chapkis and Webb rely on ""anecdotal patient reports, not clinical trials,"" noting that the DEA and National Institute on Drug Abuse have for decades successfully instituted a policy of blocking ""even carefully designed, FDA-approved research on the medical value of marijuana."" While the authors mention arguments against medical marijuana (""'crude botanicals' are not real medicine; marijuana is reduced to and synonymous with smoking...; and 'feeling better' isn't always therapeutic""), patient testimony is largely positive and discussion of adverse effects limited. Still, this volume presents a great deal of information and perspective, and should be of value to the chronically ill and their caregivers, as well as those involved in public policy.