Search Results For "The Cannabis Closet"

The Cannabis Closet

Of the readers who answered the above survey, more than one-fifth admitted to lying to their physician about marijuana use. A reader writes:

Following elbow surgery last year, I was prescribed pain medication by my surgeon, who then referred me to a pain specialist for continued treatment. A month later I went to the pain clinic and was given several pages of paperwork to fill out. I skimmed through what looked like the usual privacy and release forms and signed everything, then was asked for a urine sample before seeing the physician. Unwittingly, I had just submitted to taking a drug test, because one of the first things to come out of the doctor’s mouth was "We need to talk about your marijuana use."

I was stunned. Because I have insurance under my wife’s plan, which is a health trust for the school district here in Las Vegas, the doctor assumed I was an educator and began to express her concern that I was using illicit drugs in that work environment. I informed her that I was not a teacher, but the admonishment did not stop there. I am a casual and responsible cannabis user, but I felt like a teen being lectured to by the school principal for bad behavior.

I understand that the abuse of prescription narcotics is a serious and growing problem in this country (as opposed to, say, casual pot smoking), but the assumption that anyone who uses marijuana should be a considered a substance abuser is ridiculous. Ironically, the physician went ahead and gave me a rather large prescription for the same narcotic medication (Percocet) that my surgeon had prescribed, in spite of the "drugs are bad, mkay?" speech. And a few months later, the pain clinic actually called me to see if I needed to come in for a follow-up – something that never happens to me. Needless to say, I didn’t need the narcotics any longer and wasn’t about to submit myself to that kind of invasive scrutiny again.

Earlier cannabis confessions here.

The Cannabis Closet

Urtak’s Marc Lizoain breaks down some of the results from the above survey we ran last week:

One of the worst things about the cruel prohibition of a plant that brings pleasure and comfort to so many is that it makes criminals and liars out of otherwise honest people. More than a third [of surveyed Dish readers] have lied about their marijuana use on an official form or application.

Readers submitted a dozen more questions to the survey since it was first launched, so feel free to answer all 23 above. Many readers also responded to the cannabis confession regarding the Department of Energy applicant confronted with prior drug use. One writes:

I have a good friend in DC who lost a new job with the Feds last year because he was honest about his past use of pot. His job was classified as part of the White House, so it involved a higher level of scrutiny than other executive branch positions. Of course, it is unbelievably ironic and unfair that having a White House job involves a higher bar that gets you fired for pot use when the man at the top of the White House smoked and proudly inhaled.


Before joining the U.S. Foreign Service, where I had a Top Secret (and at times TS/Special Compartmented Information) clearance, I underwent a background investigation, which included a question on drug use. I freely admitted that I’d smoked marijuana in college but no longer did. Even as I was giving the answer, you could see the security officer writing down the standard “limited experimentation in college” line. They didn’t care about marijuana use (and don’t now) as long as it’s in the past; however, current use will get you denied entry or bounced out if you’re already in. Same was true for the CIA, which finally caved on it because they realized they couldn’t hire anyone if they insisted on a no-use-ever standard. As long as it’s been several years since your pot use, you won’t be denied a security clearance. Better to admit it than to be caught in a lie about it.



On a related note, I was completing grad school and had to apply for individual medical coverage. I’ve always taken care of myself, eating well and exercising regularly, Cannabis-closetand other than a yearly physical, I rarely see a doctor. One would think I’d be an insurance provider’s ideal applicant – young, healthy, and with no history of previous conditions. However, when I came to the question, “Have you used illegal drugs in the past five years?” I decided to be honest and checked “Yes.” I don’t remember if the application asked for further explanation, but if it did I would’ve said that I’d smoked marijuana a few years back.

The next day I received a letter from the provider declining to provide coverage. The letter specifically cited the disclosure that I’d used illegal drugs as the reason my application had been rejected. My mother, who worked in the healthcare field at the time, told me I’d been stupid to answer honestly and that the question about drug use was basically asking whether or not I was a drug addict. (My response to this was that if I were a drug addict I obviously would’ve lied about it.) I eventually went through an agent who directed me to another provider and showed me the “correct way” to answer this question.


The story from the woman whose husband told the truth on a background questionnaire reminded me of a dilemma I confronted while applying for U.S. citizenship in the 1990s. I am European by birth and moved to the U.S. at the age of nine with my parents, who were both university researchers. We all received green cards, and my folks applied for – and were granted – citizenship as soon as they were eligible. But I kept putting off citizenship until I was in my mid-20s, when I realized it was time to make a formal commitment to the country I had called home for 16 years and where I had always planned to stay.

The naturalization application was easy, until I got to the one question that stopped me cold: “Have you ever committed a crime, other than a traffic violation, for which you were not arrested?”

The answer was yes. I had been a regular pot smoker for years, and had tried a few other illicit substances. I had occasionally even sold pot, in small quantities, to defray the cost of my own indulgence. I had been an underage drinker. In all these respects I was not any different from many of the privileged East Coast kids who were my friends at boarding school and my private liberal-arts college. I was a criminal in the eyes of the law, though I felt no guilt about this since the only person I had ever hurt was myself (I was a fairly bright but indifferent student, and being a stoner did not help in this regard).

It was a wrenching situation. I truly did not want to lie to the federal government, both as a practical matter and because it simply seemed like the wrong thing to do when I was petitioning for the right to swear an oath upholding our laws and Constitution. But I also did not want my application rejected. By this point I was an American in just about every respect, with my own home and a productive, rewarding career. Deportation would have been devastating.

I thought about telling an abridged version of the truth: Confess to drinking and smoking pot on a few occasions, without disclosing the fact that I’d also tried cocaine and LSD or that I had peddled a few grams of sativa to my freshman year dorm-mates. Surely a history of light pot smoking would not disqualify a person for citizenship?

But ultimately I rejected this plan. I would still be lying to the government, and now they would have a reason to investigate my life and, quite possibly, harass my friends and employers. I imagined my application being dropped in the wrong pile, and having an INS agent show up at my door demanding to know the names of everyone I never got high with.

So I consulted lawyers and family members, and talked things over with older adults that I trusted. I wrestled with my conscience. And then I answered “no.”

That was 15 years ago. My application sailed through the process, and I beamed with pride and patriotism as I took the oath in downtown Washington, just a few blocks from the Capitol. I’ve never regretted my decision. And every once in a while, after my wife and daughter have gone to sleep, I will put on some good music and take a few tugs of a joint.

(Image: Cover of The Cannabis Closet book, which can be purchased here.)

The Cannabis Closet

A reader writes:

I know the Cannabis Closet discussion hasn't been up for awhile, but in light of your recent posts about the Obama war on medical marijuana, I thought you might find this interesting.

Six months ago, my husband got a job on a Department of Energy site working for a private contractor. He then had to apply for a low-level security clearance – not because his job actually requires it, but because it's necessary in order to go to certain areas of the site. The form he had to fill out was incredibly long and detailed, and of course included questions about previous drug use. My husband has never been a serious user; he doesn't even like pot that much, and he's never tried other illegal drugs. But, like most people we know, he smoked pot occasionally in college and in the few years following. He hasn't smoked in years, and he would never go to work high. He had to pass a drug test to get this job, and he's subject to random drug tests as long as he's employed there. 

So when he came to the security questions on drug use, he had an important choice: lie, or give some version of the truth. I encouraged him to lie, so did some of his colleagues who have gone through the process and did the same.

My husband decided to tell the truth, for three main reasons: he's almost constitutionally incapable of lying; he thinks it's important that the government knows that people working for them have gotten high, because it is completely ridiculous to stigmatize it; and, of course, Obama has admitted to smoking weed and he has a pretty high security clearance, so how are they going to deny it to my lowly husband? 

He sent in the form awhile ago, and last week got back an additional questionnaire asking for impossible details: first and last day of use, frequency of use, amount used, locations where use occurred, etc. It's clearly a generic form that gets sent to everyone who admits to drug use on the original form, but he had already given most of this information the first time around. It is crazy that pot is treated on the same level as heroin or meth, and that alcohol and prescription drugs are not asked about.

We'll see what happens with all of this, and I'm nervous that my husband's honesty could cause him to not get this clearance and potentially lose his job. Meanwhile, it seems like many (most?) people confronted with forms like this simply lie, because the chances of getting caught are close to nothing, and the government completely overreacts at the slightest mention of weed. Maybe I'm overly anxious and this will pass without incident, but it just got me thinking about our ridiculous drug laws.

And I'd be curious to see if other readers have had similar experiences, because Dish readers are a smart, educated, pot-smoking bunch who seem to have knowledge about everything!

We are also curious.  Hundreds of Dish readers over that past three years have submitted stories to the Cannabis Closet, but here's a chance for anyone to contribute in a quick and simple way: answer the yes/no questions in the Urtak survey embedded above. No registration is required and all responses are completely anonymous.

The rationale is familiar:

The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking. Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off.

Serwer defends Mitch Daniels against Waldman's attack:

[D]espite Daniels jumping on the tough on crime bandwagon back in the 1980s, he's part of a very positive vanguard of criminal justice reform on the right. Ultimately, what he's trying to do in Indiana could have a much greater impact on mass incarceration, and on the ability of the people to lead productive lives post-incarceration, than his own personal hypocrisy from 20 years ago. I hope more of his former drug warriors follow his lead. 

Sullum's verdict is more mixed:

[I]f Daniels really thinks a $350 fine is an appropriate penalty for someone caught with several ounces of marijuana, he should at least support decriminalizing possession. Currently in Indiana, the amount of pot Daniels had triggers a sentence of six months to three years.

The mild-mannered Midwesterner had some wild days at Princeton:

Officers found enough marijuana in his room to fill two size 12 shoe boxes, reports of the incident say. He and the other inhabitants of the room were also charged with possession of LSD and prescription drugs without a prescription. … “I don’t make excuses for anything. Justice was served,” he said in an interview on Monday. “I had used marijuana and I was fined for that, and that was appropriate,” he explained.

Aaron Houston adds context:

Daniels was also busted about six months prior to President Nixon signing the Daniels-arrest Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (on October 27). If that law had been on books in May 1970, Daniels could have faced an array of charges, including several felonies. And if he had been busted after 1998 when the Higher Education Act’s Aid Elimination Penalty took effect, he could have lost any federal financial aid as the result of a drug conviction.

I hope that when Daniels says fining him was an “appropriate” punishment he means that a fine should be the maximum penalty for possessing several pounds of marijuana and LSD. If not, does he believe it’s right to punish drug arrestees more harshly than he was treated?

Paul Waldman digs up an anti-drug op-ed written by Daniels in 1989 and calls it “a pretty extraordinary combination of whitewash and hypocrisy”. Waldman:

The comically mild penalty he received — a $350 fine, no jail time, no probation — was a salutary wake-up call that allowed him to go on to a productive career. And he presents this as evidence in favor of laws that would absolutely destroy the career of anybody caught in 1989 (or today) doing what Daniels was caught doing. A couple of hundred thousand students have lost their financial aid, in many cases meaning they had to drop out of college, because of a conviction for possession or sale of drugs. If Daniels were in college today, and thus had actually served time as a convicted drug dealer, not only would he have no political future, he wouldn’t have much of a future at all.

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I can’t speak to Kush-trichome-closeuppsychedelic drugs.  I can, however, speak to these same principles in the use of cannabis. I have never used  cannabis until about six months ago.  I do it primarily for health reasons.  As a type-1  diabetic, alcohol is almost a complete no-go for me.  And with the severe heart disease that I have suffered as a result of diabetes, I have all the hallmarks of long-term chronic disease:  generalized and specialized pain, both musculoskeletal and neurogenic; wasting, much like AIDS-related wasting; loss of appetite; loss of the raw materials required just to keep the brain functioning. So, I began cannabis for the medical benefits and also as a substitute for a glass or two of wine.  What I have been most surprised about is the effect it has on mental functioning.  Besides just helping to increase my nutrition, it has made my mental functioning orders of magnitude better.  And it is not just general cognitive functioning, but what I term “philosophical” cognition.

I consider myself a non-theist.  But when I get high and think about some of the big Cannabis-cover_smallissues in life, I find myself going all the way to the evolutionary cellular level.  (I know, quite a trip!)  But it reveals that there is a power in this universe.  In my determination, it is whatever has given protons and electrons their charge, their dynamic power interplay, i.e. their “power.”  Whoever or whatever did that is “God.”  And it is as profound as any spiritual experience I have ever had (yes, I came from a very traditional, conservative Southern Baptist environment).

The ability to recognize a power “greater than us” actually helps me understand those who believe in a more traditional view of God.  The traditional God never had that overpowering awe to me, even at earliest ages, like realizing the power in the atom.  Now, I am in awe of this creation.

Mocking how cannabis can lead to spiritual insight is easier than exploring it. Read 120 more personal accounts of pot use – positive, negative, and in-between – in our print-on-demand book, still on sale at for only $5.95 (and be sure to use the promo-code DISH for $3 off shipping).

by Chris Bodenner

Many readers were moved by this post. One writes:

God damn it. I am a 45-year-old ex-paratrooper, have sea kayaked through hurricane gale waves, hiked in West Africa, almost died from malaria, almost died from dysentery, almost drowned off the Carolina coast, had a son born with a birth defect that almost killed him and put us through 18 months of hell. Life has thrown a ton of shit at me and here I am, reading that story and balling my eyes out. Damn you and thanks.

by Chris Bodenner

The reader who contributed the most powerful entry of our collection follows up:

Over the holiday, my children came home and I showed them “The Cannabis Closet” book, which got here a few days ago. I showed them the excerpt that I had written about their mother’s battle with cancer and her use of marijuana to alleviate the effects of chemo.

Our oldest son, who has his masters in nursing and runs the nursing staff at the local VA hospital, was surprised that I had not included her oncologist’s reaction to her using pot. To tell you the truth, I had forgotten about it. But he thought it was important that I write it out and send it to you. So, here it is. Sorry it's a bit long; I tried to shorten it up.

As I said before in my first letter to you, shortly after she started using pot, she did not suffer the nausea or the aches and pains any longer. She also got her appetite back and put on a little weight. Even her color got better. I also told you that after she began using marijuana she began to open up and talk about her illness and her final wishes. We spent a lot of long evenings on the couch talking and drinking hot chocolate. I will always look back on those evenings as some of the best times we spent together.

When we went to see her oncologist a couple of weeks later for her regular check up, he took one look at her and said, “Well look at you! You look wonderful! Those anti-nausea medications seem to be doing the trick.” She and I looked at each other, and I told him that the pills he had prescribed did nothing to help with her nausea – she still threw up eight to twelve times a day. I told him that she was using marijuana and that it had made a big difference – not only in keeping her from getting sick, but also in helping her get her appetite back and removing her fear of chemo.

He looked at her and asked her if that was true; was she using marijuana? My wife told him yes. His entire demeanor instantly changed. He said that was a load of crap and that he had read all the studies on it and that marijuana did nothing to help the effects of chemo and that she was “stupid” for using an illegal narcotic.

My demeanor instantly changed too, and I asked to speak with him in the hallway.

I followed him out of the exam room, and when he turned to face me I told him if he ever spoke to my wife like that again, I would deck him. I told him that regardless of his feelings about marijuana, it was helping my wife in more ways than simply helping with the nausea; it was helping her open up and talk about her illness – something she had not been able to do until now.

He was not moved at all. He said that if she continued to use marijuana he would refuse to stay on as her primary oncologist. He also threatened to inform our insurance carrier that she was self-medicating against his wishes.

I felt my blood-pressure going up and told him that I wouldn’t let him near her again if he was the last doctor on the planet. I stepped back inside the exam room and told my wife we were leaving. He followed me in and told her what he had told me – that he was going to call our insurance carrier if she did not stop.

I decided that I had heard enough. I turned to him and informed him, maybe a bit louder than I should have, that if he gave out confidential medical information without our prior consent, I would "sue him back to the stone age". And, believe it or not, that stopped him cold. I got my wife’s sweater and purse and helped her up. She was in tears as I led her out. I remember nurses and patients stepping in the hallway wondering what all the fuss was about.

We went out of his waiting room and across the hall into another oncologist’s office. This doctor had treated a good friend of mine until he passed away about a year prior. My late friend’s wife had nothing but good things to say about him and I think we had gotten a second opinion from him earlier in my wife’s treatment. He was a heavy-set, red-haired man who always seemed to be smiling.

I made an appointment with his secretary and a week later we were sitting in his office. He asked why we were switching doctors and I told him what had happened. He looked at my wife and asked her if she was still using pot. She said yes. He asked if it was helping. She said yes. He said, “Well good for you,” and he never brought it up again and continued to treat her until she passed away about six months later.

Marijuana helped us both through a tough time in her illness. Even if it was in her head, as the doctor alluded to, why would anyone in the medical profession take such a hard line on something that was obviously helping? I came to realize that the guy was an egomaniac and a control freak. Why else in God’s name would he take that hard of a stance?

I want to end this by telling you a little more about my wife's death. The cancer that she had migrated to her spinal fluid from the tumor in her brain, and once that happened, she was gone in 24 hours. Our children all made it up in time to say good-bye and it really did seem that she held on until they were all there.

When all the kids were around her bed and each of them had their hands on her, our daughter leaned over her and said, “It’s okay Mama, you can go now”. My wife took two more breaths and was gone. I watched all of this from the doorway and can tell you that I have never seen anything more precious or intimate in my life. It was how she would have wanted to go.

The church had 100-person capacity. Two hundred showed up. I estimated about a third of them had never met her; they were clients of mine and were there for me and the kids. And I can promise you that you have never seen a funeral like hers. People came forward to tell all kinds of “Jane Stories”. She was a wonderfully naive person and you could not help but love her. (Her daughter saw her talking on the cell phone in the backyard one day and noticed that she did not move or walk when she was talking. When she asked her why later, Jane told her daughter that she was afraid of roaming charges.)

One story after another. At times we had to wait until the laughter died down enough to continue. Jane was a teacher for many years and she touched so many lives. The marijuana use was just a blip in her long life. But I feel it played a huge role in helping her come to grips with her illness.