Medicinal vs. recreational

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

A criticism of legalized medical marijuana is that medical cards are easy to obtain (i.e., buy) and that a large proportion of card holders are basically recreational users. What is your view and experience?

—Waiting for Legal

Here is my view: So what? Marijuana should be legal anyway. If going to the doctor and claiming you use cannabis to treat your pretendinitis will keep you out of jail and away from the criminal justice system, do it. Going to jail is a gigantic threat to your health and well-being.

Yes, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 was intended to assist people with serious diseases (cancer, HIV, arthritis, etc.). However, cannabis has been proven to be effective for a variety of health issues, and it is a natural stress reliever. Stress will kill you in a hurry, and going to jail will definitely increase your stress levels, so getting a medical cannabis recommendation is a preventative health measure. Boom. Plus, why should someone have to try to find a marijuana dealer when they could go to a friendly neighborhood cannabis dispensary and choose from a plethora of fine products that have been tested for quality? Marijuana is the safest medicinal and recreational drug of all time ever, and no one should ever have to deal with the criminal justice system because they like weed. So don’t wait for legalization, because California may never get it right.

Several years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I found that marijuana often helps ease the anxiety and racing thoughts associated with manic episodes. Yet, most evaluators won’t approve medical-marijuana use for people suffering from BPD. I’m wondering, is that because there hasn’t been sufficient research done on the matter, or are there proven dangers associated with it?

—Sleepless in Salinas

There hasn’t been sufficient research on how marijuana affects people with bipolar disorder. The esteemed Dr. Lester Grinspoon published a study a few years ago ( showing that cannabis may help, but he also says that more study is needed. The DEA makes it very difficult for American scientists to study the medicinal effects of marijuana (probably because they need marijuana to remain illegal to justify their enormous budget). That’s why Israel is leading the world in cannabis research. Although the DEA just announced that it’s easing the rules for research on CBD, which is a nonpsychoactive component of the cannabis plant (meaning it won’t get you high). Still, CBD has been shown to be an effective anti-anxiety med, so maybe the scientists will find a way to help you with your condition. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that cannabis can help people with BPD, but I would suggest that you find a doctor or therapist who is a little more open minded about cannabis and talk to them before you go out and start smoking all the weed all the time.