1st Edition

The Medicalization of Marijuana Legitimacy, Stigma, and the Patient Experience

By Michelle Newhart, William Dolphin Copyright 2019
    302 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    302 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Winner of the Donald W. Light Award for the Applied or Public Practice of Medical Sociology

    Medical marijuana laws have spread across the U.S. to all but a handful of states. Yet, eighty years of social stigma and federal prohibition creates dilemmas for patients who participate in state programs.

    The Medicalization of Marijuana takes the first comprehensive look at how patients negotiate incomplete medicalization and what their experiences reveal about our relationship with this controversial plant as it is incorporated into biomedicine. Is cannabis used similarly to other medicines? Drawing on interviews with midlife patients in Colorado, a state at the forefront of medical cannabis implementation, this book explores the practical decisions individuals confront about medical use, including whether cannabis will work for them; the risks of registering in a state program; and how to handle questions of supply, dosage, and routines of use.

    Individual stories capture how patients redefine and reclaim cannabis use as legitimate—individually and collectively—and grapple with an inherently political identity. These experiences help illustrate how stigma, prejudice, and social change operate.

    By positioning cannabis use within sociological models of medical behavior, Newhart and Dolphin provide a wide-reaching, theoretically informed analysis of the issue that expands established concepts and provides new insight on medical cannabis and how state programs work.


    Marijuana, Cannabis, and Hemp: A Note on Terms

    Introduction: A Tale of Two Patients

    Chapter 1: The Social Construction of Cannabis Use

    Chapter 2: The Landscape of Cannabis Policy

    Chapter 3: Becoming a Patient

    Chapter 4: Cannabis and the Doctor–Patient Interaction

    Chapter 5: Medical Cannabis Use in Everyday Life

    Chapter 6: Changing the Set: Creating Medical Routines of Cannabis Use

    Chapter 7: The Power of Place: Changes to Setting

    Chapter 8: Stereotypes, Stigma, and Mitigating Risk

    Chapter 9: Strategies for Managing and Changing Cannabis Stigma

    Chapter 10: Beyond Medicalization: Healthism and Pharmaceuticalization

    Conclusion: Medicalization and the Future of Cannabis Medicine

    Appendix A: Research Methods

    Appendix B: Annotated Index of Patients by Pseudonym



    The authors are a husband-and-wife team with more than thirty-five years collective experience writing on cannabis and drug policy topics, including contributions to more than two dozen books.

    Michelle Newhart, Ph.D., teaches Sociology and works as an instructional designer at Mt. San Antonio College. Previously, she has taught at University of Colorado, Boulder. She is the co-author of Understanding Research Methods (10th ed.) from Routledge.

    William Dolphin has taught English and Composition at San Francisco State University, Rhodes College, Azusa Pacific University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He currently teaches in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Education at University of Redlands.

    Here’s an engaging story of a controversial plant and the people who rely on it. If you’ve ever finished a mystery novel and realized you’ve effortlessly learned history, pharmacology, sociology, psychology, and a warm appreciation for real characters, get ready to have a comparable experience. The authors depict the humanity of all their participants while weaving details of the data into a riveting narrative. Readers from diverse backgrounds can learn a lot from this text. Seasoned cannabis researchers are bound to appreciate the nuanced look at the lives of patients. Citizens new to the field will relish many surprises that will likely defy their stereotypes, and fellow patients will find the tales of their brothers and sisters extremely validating. In addition, the book is a superb series of lessons on the utility, challenges, and delights of qualitative research. Anyone interested in finding out more about any underground population and communicating the information in a compelling way now has a stellar example for how to do so.
    Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., Author of Understanding Marijuana and Professor, University at Albany, SUNY

    With the definitions and uses of marijuana changing rapidly, this is an important and timely book. It brings together policy, experience and especially medicalization in a rich analytical fashion. It should become a benchmark work on impacts of medical marijuana in society.
    Peter Conrad, Professor Emeritus, Brandeis University

    Authors Newhart and Dolphin have provided an in-depth sociological study of the patient experience with cannabis in the USA that examines the real-life obstacles, stigma, and legal tightrope that people must negotiate to treat their illnesses in the face of continued federal recalcitrance. Readers will learn details of the history and legal underpinnings  related to the cannabis controversy, and hear the stories of 40 patients in their own words, thus putting a human face on this complex topic. It is a highly accurate and welcome addition to the available literature.
    Ethan Russo, MD, Director of Research and Development, International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute