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Dying to Get High

Marijuana as Medicine

Wendy Chapkis, Richard Webb

Publication Year: 2008

Dying to Get High with Susie Bright on Boing Boing!

Warring Wines; ’You Want to Fight?’; Nurse Mary Jane in Santa Cruz

High Times interviews the authors

Alternet excerpt of the book ("How Pot Became Demonized")

Discussion from the Santa Cruz Metro

Marijuana as medicine has been a politically charged topic in this country for more than three decades. Despite overwhelming public support and growing scientific evidence of its therapeutic effects (relief of the nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer and AIDS, control over seizures or spasticity caused by epilepsy or MS, and relief from chronic and acute pain, to name a few), the drug remains illegal under federal law.

In Dying to Get High, noted sociologist Wendy Chapkis and Richard J. Webb investigate one community of seriously-ill patients fighting the federal government for the right to use physician-recommended marijuana. Based in Santa Cruz, California, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is a unique patient-caregiver cooperative providing marijuana free of charge to mostly terminally ill members. For a brief period in 2004, it even operated the only legal non-governmental medical marijuana garden in the country, protected by the federal courts against the DEA.

Using as their stage this fascinating profile of one remarkable organization, Chapkis and Webb tackle the broader, complex history of medical marijuana in America. Through compelling interviews with patients, public officials, law enforcement officers and physicians, Chapkis and Webb ask what distinguishes a legitimate patient from an illegitimate pothead, good drugs from bad, medicinal effects from just getting high. Dying to Get High combines abstract argument and the messier terrain of how people actually live, suffer and die, and offers a moving account of what is at stake in ongoing debates over the legalization of medical marijuana.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-ix

The authors owe a debt of gratitude to the excellent editors and editorial staff at New York University Press, in particular Ilene Kalish and her assistants, Salwa Jabado, Gabrielle Begue, and Despina Papazoglou Gimbel. We would also like to thank the anonymous external...

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pp. 1-12

People always want to know whether I’ve actually done the things I write about. It was a popular question when I was writing about prostitution1 and is undiminished now that I’m doing research on drugs. I’ve considered taking the path laid out by Dr. Charles Grob, a physician and longtime...

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1. Shamans and Snake Oil Salesmen

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pp. 13-38

For many modern critics, the concept of “medical marijuana” is a contradiction in terms. Medicine is standardized, synthetic, and pure; marijuana involves the unrefined and promiscuous coupling of more than four hundred components rooted in the dirt. Medicine — in its most powerful and...

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2. Set and Setting

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pp. 39-63

On March 24, 1973, Valerie Leveroni and Barbara Raymond, students at the University of Nevada, were returning to Reno after spending the day at a hot spring near Pyramid Lake. As they drove south along Highway 395, Barbara, who was at the wheel of Valerie’s Volkswagen, suddenly noticed...

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3.The Greening of Modern Medicine

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pp. 64-85

Throughout the late 1990s and the early years of the twenty-first century, the U.S. Supreme Court consistently ruled in support of federal authority over the cultivation and possession of marijuana even for medical use. The justices oft en appeared sympathetic to the plight of patients, but the...

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4. “Potheads Scamming the System”

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pp. 86-114

Dorothy Gibbs is the sort of patient medical marijuana advocates hope voters will think of when therapeutic access to cannabis is on the ballot. At age ninety-four and confined to a bed in a Santa Cruz nursing home, this WAMM member is hardly the stereotypical “pothead” many critics...

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5. Cannabis and Consciousness

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pp. 115-138

The consciousness-altering properties of cannabis are generally understood by policy makers as a critical impediment to the drug’s designation as a medicine. For many, the claim that cannabis is of any therapeutic value is a “ruse” employed not for the benefit of the dying, but rather for...

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6. Mother’s Milk and the Muffin Man

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pp. 139-156

The most common and best-established risks of sustained marijuana use in botanical form are associated not with the plant, but with the effects of one of the most popular delivery systems: smoking. For this reason, drug prohibitionists tend to focus on the dangers of inhaling smoke as a way to...

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7. Love Grows Here

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pp. 157-182

A few miles north of the city of Santa Cruz, California, a winding farm road turns off scenic Highway 1 toward the rounded hilltops and wooded canyons of the coastal mountain range. Michael Corral bounces gently around the corners in a pickup truck loaded with gardening supplies...

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8. Lessons in Endurance and Impermanence

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pp. 183-210

On the morning of September 5, 2002, Gabriel Demaine, WAMM’s volunteer coordinator, wheeled her bike around the corner and into the WAMM parking lot. There she discovered three cars parked at hurried angles by the office door...


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pp. 211-244


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pp. 245-256

About the Authors

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p. 257

E-ISBN-13: 9780814790090
E-ISBN-10: 0814790097
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814716663
Print-ISBN-10: 0814716660

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 794701070
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dying to Get High

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Marijuana -- Therapeutic use -- United States.
  • Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana.
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