Episode 61 - The Future of a Medicine That Refuses to Behave like a Medicine

Cannabis doesn’t behave like other medicines, which is why it doesn’t fit the current western way of healing -- an it may never. William Dolphin and Michelle Newhart, authors of The Medicalization of Marijuana, explore the future of a medicine that refuses to behave like a medicine.


Cannabis is an extraordinary healing plant that treats dozens of conditions, in some cases with far better results than Western medicine, and with far fewer side effects. Even researchers from the National Institutes of Health have said that all disease states in human beings are related to endocannabinoid dysfunction.

But the plant is an iconoclast and doesn’t neatly doesn’t fit into our modern idea of medicine. It’s not a single molecule that can be aimed at precise targets in the body. It responds to how the person’s body is at the moment. Because the plant grows in the ground the soil, the weather, the amount of sun it receives alters the constituents of every variety. And since everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different, everyone needs to experiment to find their optimum dose. It doesn’t cause any potentially fatal side effect. In other words, it doesn’t fit into any model that that modern pharma medicine is based on.

As this interview brilliantly points out, this seems to create more problems for healthcare providers than patients. People who are ill or who hurt are reclaiming cannabis as a medicine, with or without their doctor’s consent. And because most doctors can’t neatly categorize or and have to learn how it works differently than “take two pills and call me in the morning,” it’s often like trying to fit a botanical square peg into the round hole of our system.

Listeners of this podcast know that I am not religious about any one method of healing -- modern medicine and certain drugs have been life savers to me and everyone I know, just as shamanic journeys, breathwork, meditation, chiropractic, physical therapy and yoga have been. Maybe MDs will never be convinced of the value of fitting cannabinoid therapies into their healing arsenals. But most of us patients know that different forms of treatment can and should coexist and at times be combined. And yes, of course, we need more research to verify some of the endless claims about cannabinoids, but maybe we also need other words to describe what it is and how they works, something between the strict confinement of “medical” and the loosey goosey of “alternative.”

Listen to this conversation and let us know if you have any suggestions.

Joe Dolce