legalization when comparing the periods from September 1 to December 31, 2008 and January 1 to April 30, 2009. The result is that these advocacy bodies are able to relate their message to a far greater population and thus drive popular support, eventually leading to even greater potential for political adoption by elected politicians. Because advocacy groups such as NORML and MPP are seen to be representative, established politicians and members of civil society such as the media often contact them. This in turn gives lay-experts more cultural credibility, especially when presenting findings under the aegis of a national organization. Naturally, it also increases the larger public awareness of the issue (And thus facilitating a need for experts to drive public understanding, whether lay- or not) when media consults these organizations.
According to Epstein, "A third credibility tactic employed by treatment activists consisted of yoking together methodological (or episte-mological) arguments and moral (or political) arguments so as to monopolize different forms of credibility in different domains" (Epstein 420). He gives the example of clinical trials with AIDS patients, wherein the initial subject populations consisted largely of middle-class white men. Treatment activists thus argued trials should more accurately reflect the demographics afflicted by HIV/AIDS and thus all affected populations must be given access to the trials (420). "Activists therefore pushed simultaneously for a morally credible policy promoting fair access to experimental drugs and for a scientifically credible policy for acquiring generalizable data," in short giving this representative activist body both the moral and scientific high-ground (421). In much the same way, the medicinal cannabis community uses two strains of arguments. On the epistemological end, it argues that cannabis has far fewer side effects than most of the prescription medications available on the market, and is fundamentally harder to overdose on given the incredibly enormous LD-50 of THC. Many in the medicinal community regard the scheduled nature of cannabis as ludicrous: in Treating Yourself issue 10, writer Wendal Grant compares the enormous and incredibly daunting list of side-effects for the pharmaceuticals prescribed by doctors, with the comparatively-harmless effects of cannabis (Grant 2007). From this emerges the moral claim medicinal cannabis users are able to make: given that the professional consensus is perceived to have a "credibility gap" while simultaneously claiming that a plant with no overdose or physical addiction potential and incredibly benign side-effects is an enormously harmful drug (even while the patient is experiencing relief from it), the patient is forced into a moral quandary. He or she is thus forced to either violate professional opinion and the law itself in order to obtain the relief sought, or take a cocktail of potentially-harmful pharmaceuticals, with often additional pharmaceuticals needed to counter the side-effects of the first, which may not even offer the same relief as cannabis. Thus, as claim-makers with regards to their own personal health, medicinal cannabis patients are thus able to morally argue that it should be their decision as to how they medicate — not the government's.
Lastly, much like the AIDS treatment activists mentioned by Epstein, medicinal cannabis patients often take sides in preexisting professional debates (421). This can be seen in community response to findings — as an example, when a New Zealand research lab released findings displaying levels of psychosis in cannabis users, Treating Yourself community member Ally (Or "pflover") produced a massive literature review of various psychosis factors for publication in the upcoming issue. At once, Ally/pflover sided with creators of the study in approving their methodology, while at the same time expanding on their findings and disagreeing with their conclusion (pflover 2007). While the media was relaying the findings as indicating cannabis users were more prone to psychosis, Ally's analysis demonstrated that, compared to many other common environmental factors, cannabis usage had a comparatively minor effect (18). This at once validated one set of professional opinions (i.e., in terms of methodology) and sought to clarify public understanding of findings, while using language understandable by both a public and professional audience. Contributions on behalf of lay-experts in the medicinal cannabis community give scope to professional findings while contributing both localized knowledge and stakeholder opinion to a broader expert discourse on the topic.
Conclusion: We only know what we know
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