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Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine [Paperback]

Wendy Chapkis , Richard J. Webb
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 3, 2008 0814716679 978-0814716670 1

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sociologist Chapkis (Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor) and educator Webb chronicle the experiences of caregivers, patients and local officials in the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a nonprofit formed in the wake of California's "Compassionate Use Act of 1996" dedicated to education, research and providing cannabis to patients suffering from "chronic and life-threatening illnesses." Focusing on cannabis's benefits to the seriously ill, the authors investigate many aspects of this complicated issue, including marijuana cooperatives versus big pharma, the power of making one's own health care decisions, and the implications of alternative medicine's growing mainstream cachet. Chapkis and Webb rely on "anecdotal patient reports, not clinical trials," noting that the DEA and National Institute on Drug Abuse have for decades successfully instituted a policy of blocking "even carefully designed, FDA-approved research on the medical value of marijuana." While the authors mention arguments against medical marijuana ("'crude botanicals' are not real medicine; marijuana is reduced to and synonymous with smoking...; and 'feeling better' isn't always therapeutic"), patient testimony is largely positive and discussion of adverse effects limited. Still, this volume presents a great deal of information and perspective, and should be of value to the chronically ill and their caregivers, as well as those involved in public policy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"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,

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; 1 edition (August 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814716679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814716670
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion and Courage September 16, 2008
Widely considered the "gold standard" of the medi-pot movement, the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a co-op that distributes free cannabis to seriously ill people, provides the central focus of this book.

The activist founders of WAMM, Mike and Valerie Corral, have tirelessly challenged the federal prohibition of cannabis as medicine. WAMM members are stricken with AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other ailments, but lawmakers in Washington continue to insist that these patients are simply "potheads scamming the system." Against the backdrop of WAMM's struggles and successes, authors Wendy Chapkis and Richard J. Webb examine the history of cannabis and medicine in America, placing the current controversy in context.

Chapters examining scientific research and legal developments are packed with information, plus the book is interspersed with interviews of patients, caregivers, physicians, police and lawmakers that put a human perspective on the need for truly legal medicinal pot.

"Dying to Get High" addresses many important questions and contradictions in the Federal policy, effectively defusing government propaganda with common sense, scientific facts and the anecdotal evidence recorded by WAMM patients. Compassionate readers will be moved by the stories of suffering, and the book is so well-written and researched that even the most hard-hearted prohibitionist will be persuaded that the laws criminalizing the medicinal use of cannabis need to change.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True stories in the war on medicine December 9, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stories from the battle against patients and their medicine. Heart-felt and real. George and I are in it, so it's one of our favorites! :) Jean
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much information March 14, 2012
By Patrick
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really wish that all politicians that are trying to make laws about marijuana in this country would read this book so that they could get a much better understanding of the impacts that their decisions have when they vote against medical marijuana. This is seriously a great book, even for people who understand the situation already. I would recommend this to anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shame on America! April 26, 2010
Dying to Get High for the most part concentrates on the story of a medical Marijuana collective in California. It more or less sickens me the harrassment these people went through for growing something that helps people who have serious illnesses and giving it away to them more or less for free. The therapeutic uses of Marijuana is something big Pharma is scared to death of. You have a "drug" that is helpful in many ways and no matter how hard they have tried over the years, they can't seem to find any health problems that arise from smoking Marijuana. However many if not most of the drugs that big Pharma pushes have serious side effects and absolutely will damage your health in both the long and short term. Besides that many Americans, mainly because of the influence of Christianity, have this idea that pleasure is evil and will do anything possible to keep people from feeling good. Most likely Marijuana will be decriminalized in California soon but I predict the criminal United States federal government/courts will step in and violate the constitution yet again.
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