Medical, shmedical?

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I have a friend who has a medical-marijuana recommendation for menstrual cramps. But she medicates all month long. She sees it as an act of civil disobedience. I see it as being disingenuous and jeopardizing access for terminally ill patients. Who’s right?

—Lady Bud Johnson

Activist and Proposition 215 co-author Dennis Peron said that all cannabis use is medicinal use. But the fight over whether cannabis use is medicinal or recreational has been raging through the community since before Prop. 215 passed in 1996. There are a bunch of differing viewpoints. People who use cannabis to manage severely debilitating conditions are very protective of maintaining their right to safely access and use the drug. Other folks recognize pot’s medical value, but like to smoke it because they enjoy getting high.

When different states started legalizing marijuana for medical use, the prohibitionists saw it as the first step down the slippery slope to legalizing marijuana for everyone. At the same time, hard-core marijuana activists saw it as a way to stop the legalization movement by making the regulations so strict it would allow access to only a select few. While California law is such that almost anyone can get a recommendation for cannabis, states like New Jersey and New Mexico and even Oregon make it much harder for people to qualify.

I spoke to Clint Werner, author of Marijuana Gateway to Health, about the medical vs. recreational debate.

“I wouldn’t say that all marijuana use is medical use,” he began, “but I would say that all marijuana use has medical benefits. Pot is a neuroprotectant, an anti-inflammatory. It inhibits disease, and it has very pleasant side effects. For a while, people only knew that pot helped with extreme cases like cancer and AIDS, but we have found that marijuana helps a wide range of nonlife-threatening symptoms, so why wouldn’t someone prefer cannabis to an opiate?”

Yes, but should someone without a serious medical condition get a letter of recommendation?

Werner said of course: “Getting arrested is a massive health threat. Being in jail causes huge amounts of stress. Stress causes inflammation, and inflammation leads to disease. Anyone who enjoys cannabis should sign up to avoid the giant health risk that going to jail causes,” he said.

So, I will say that your friend is right. Get a letter, enjoy your cannabis, and protect yourself and your health at the same time.

What do you think of city council’s effort to ban outdoor cultivation in residential areas?

—City Grower

The Sacramento City Council is scheduled to meet and vote on eliminating outdoor medical-marijuana grows within the city limits. In my opinion, this would fly in the face of state law, and would make it very hard for low-income cannabis patients to grow their own medicine. Indoor grow rooms are very expensive to set up and run. Please contact your council person and let them know how you feel about their plan.