Before gluten sensitivity was a running joke in popular culture, medical marijuana held the preeminent position as easy humor fodder. The reason was simple: It did nothing for glaucoma, beyond the placebo range, and though the vast majority of clinical pain patients were women, 75 percent of the "medical marijuana" cardholders were men.

 Medical marijuana – a controversial topic in recent years – is now legal in 23 US states, the District of Columbia, and has been legal in the state of California since 1996. Because it was legal, California led the way in fake claims to smoke it legally. As has been noted, the gluten fad puts real celiac patients in danger and the medical marijuana fad has stigmatized people who actually do get a benefit, at least if a tiny number of surveys counts for anything.

Using interviews 18 participants, scholars tried to understand how patients handle this stigma and how it affects health care as well as day-to-day life. “There was obviously that kind of negative stigma of using marijuana that I’d be looked upon as kind of an addict or a drug user more than a patient,” explained a participant. Almost every patient mentioned being labeled a stoner looking to take advantage of the law. Many patients felt uncomfortable discussing the matter with their primary health care providers because of embarrassment. A major norm among all of the patients is concealing their marijuana usage from family and close friends.  

“It’s sad, it really is,” said one patient. “Most people seem to be misinformed, and this includes the lawmakers. They see it as black and white. Marijuana is bad. Drugs are bad. Yet, they have no problem drinking their scotch, smoking cigars. They have no idea how incredibly beneficial cannabis can be,” said a participant.

“This study underscores the need for further research as well as updating the training and education of physicians and healthcare providers in order to expand the knowledge and skill base as it relates to medical marijuana treatment,” wrote the researchers. “As it becomes a viable treatment option for more and more patients across the United States, studies like these will be instrumental in ensuring that medical marijuana meets its full therapeutic potential.”

Citatin: Travis D. Satterlund and Juliet P. Lee, Stigma among California’s Medical Marijuana Patients, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Volume 47, Issue 1, 2015 DOI: 10.1080/02791072.2014.991858