Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine

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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 chemothrapy 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. 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.

About the Author:
Wendy Chapkis is Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME

About the Author:
Richard J. Webb is Lecturer in Communication Studies at San Jose State University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a beautifully written account from the front lines of a struggle between a federal drug war complex determined to keep demonizing marijuana and the growing movement of patients and doctors who have found marijuana to be a valuable medicine. Voters in California and many other states have strongly supported the patients. The moving stories in this book show why."
-Craig Reinarman,co-author of Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice

"Chapkis and Webb offer a well-written exposition of the polemics involved in the medical marijuana controversy. . . . Chapkis and Webb have skillfully intertwined abstract concepts with "real life" experiences that exemplify the costs and benefits of the medical marijuana drama."


"A thought provoking portrait of a Santa Cruz cannabis collective."
-The Chronicle of Higher Education


"Emphasis here is on the human experience—extensive interviews provide a unique look at the day-to-day issues faced by chronic and terminally ill patients who find relief through the marijuana that is grown and distributed to them at no cost. WAMM’s history, philosophies, and relationship with local officials are also examined."
-Library Journal


"Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine is an important and accessible book—not heavy on academic jargon, but rather lively and engaging, like a true detective novel—with a broad appeal to those interested in the medical potential of cannabis, an end to the drug war and grass roots activism."

-High Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814716663
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy Chapkis is Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME. She is the author of the award-winning book Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor and Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance.

Richard J. Webb is a lecturer in Communication Studies at San Jose State University, San Jose, CA.

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Table of Contents

1 Shamans and Snake Oil Salesmen 13

2 Set and Setting 39

3 The Greening of Modern Medicine 64

4 "Potheads Scamming the System" 86

5 Cannabis and Consciousness 115

6 Mother's Milk and the Muffin Man 139

7 Love Grows Here 157

8 Lessons in Endurance and Impermanence 183

Notes 211

Index 245

About the Authors 257

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2009

    Totally compelling new book on medical marijuana

    This book transformed the way I looked at the issue of the medical use of marijuana. The interviews with patients, physicians, and law enforcement are all riveting. The book offers a concise history of the use - and the criminalization of the use - of cannabis in the US and discusses the contemporary political debates surrounding state-by-state legalization.

    But what distinguishes this book from anything else out there is the absolutely captivating account of the creation of one of the original patient-caregiver cooperatives in California: the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana. One of my favorite chapters (and the one that gives the book its title) discusses what patients have to say about the therapeutic value of the consciousness altering effects (the "high") associated with cannabis, especially for those who are in the process of dying (80% of the members of this organization are living with life threatening illnesses).

    The book offers a really detailed picture of the organization and describes its battle against the U.S. federal government -- including an account of a terrifying early morning DEA raid in 2002 and the organization's decision to fight back. The group won in federal court and for a while they had the only legal medical marijuana garden in the country.

    The book also has a couple of dozen really powerful pictures (portraits of patients, photos of the collective's garden, photos of demonstrations). It is scholarly without being in the least bit dry. I recommend it highly.

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    Posted August 6, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2011

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