The medicalisation of revolt: a sociological analysis of medical cannabis users


Willy Pedersen, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Box 1096, Blindern, Oslo 0317, Norway


In a qualitative study, we investigated the medical motives of 100 Norwegian cannabis users, none of whom had legal access to medical cannabis. Cannabis was used therapeutically for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and rheumatism, as well as for quality of life conditions such as quality of sleep, relaxation and wellbeing. The borders between medical and recreational cannabis use were blurred. This article identifies strategies of medical cannabis users to gain social acceptance. Several respondents downplayed effects such as intoxication and euphoria. Others used the language of medicine and knowledge of current research in psychopharmacology. Cannabis was contrasted with the potential for abuse of prescription medicines. The medical cannabis movement has had little success in Norway. Medical professionals are unable to accept that users may be more knowledgeable than experts and medical users cannot discard the values of traditional cannabis culture. Calls for medical cannabis use are thus perceived as a gambit in attempts to have cannabis legalised. We argue that, despite having had little effect on health authorities, the medical cannabis movement may be having the unintended effect of medicalising cannabis use and using it as a cure for everyday problems.