Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
Carol Wolman, M.D.: A Pro-Cannabis
Doctor "Comes Out"
Only one of the six doctors who spoke at the
Medical Marijuana Patients Union conference in Fort Bragg Aug. 14
was not well known far and wide for approving cannabis use by patients. “This
is my day to come out of the closet,” said Albion psychiatrist Carol
Wolman, MD. She was on a panel with Tod Mikuriya, Philip Denney,
Marian Fry, Phil Leveque, and Frank Lucido, who between them have
approved cannabis use by more than 30,000 patients.
Wolman, 63, is a graduate of Radcliffe and Harvard Medical School, a board-certified
psychiatrist, and a Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association. Here’s
what she had to say:
I have never been a vociferous marijuana advocate, and have not before
spoken publicly about the trials I have endured as a result of carrying
out Prop 215. To make a long story short, in January 2001 I was targeted
by the Medical Board
for investigation because of a letter written to them by the DEA, alleging
that I sold drugs to strangers over the phone. This is untrue, and
the allegation was not pursued. The Board felt “obliged” to investigate
me anyway, and kept looking until they found something. I am currently
Identifying myself publicly as a targeted physician is scary. I fear
retaliation from the Board. I’m here because I feel a responsibility
to Prop 215 patients and to other doctors who have been harassed.
I am basically a trusting soul, and it took me a long time to realize that
the motivation behind this investigation is not purely a concern for my competence
as a physician. I am extremely self-critical and somewhat masochistic, and
easily took on whatever guilt and punishment the Board handed me.
I am also a timid soul, and hesitate to stand up for myself. My attorney, John
Etchevers, is experienced in these cases, and told me that no physician ever
wins against the Board, and that they turn vindictive toward docs who challenge
them. So I went along with their program.
When I met Dr. Mikuriya over the internet, and started sharing stories with
him, I realized that my case is part of a pattern of Medical Board hostility
toward MDs who uphold Prop 215. It gave me a new perspective. We are all afraid
of being labeled paranoid nowadays, but not acknowledging that one is being
persecuted is much crazier than a little suspiciousness.
I serve a MediCal population, and the state wants
to get rid of MediCal docs.
I realized I would feel better about myself and get better results
if I accepted that I have been targeted —whether for marijuana, peace
activism, or simply because I serve a MediCal population, and the state
wants to get rid of MediCal docs. When I was invited to participate
in this panel, I knew the time had come to speak out.
I have always considered marijuana to be a safe, efficacious medication with
few side effects, short or long term Unlike the pharmaceuticals I am pushed
to prescribe in order to meet the “community standard,” cannabis has been around
for thousands of years and its effects are well understood. There are no surprises
like that with Zyprexa, a widely used medication, which turns out to cause
extreme weight gain and diabetes.
An article in the British Medical Journal, June 19, 2004, reports that Bush
has plans to screen the whole US population, especially children, for “mental
illness,” and treat those with behavioral and/or emotional problems with pharmaceuticals.
His administration has recommended Prozac for workers unhappy with their jobs.
These drugs are fairly new and have serious, sometimes lethal side effects.
Prozac, for instance, is associated with an elevated suicide and homicide rate.
Yet marijuana, which many people use to improve impulse control and mitigate
anxiety and depression, is illegal, according to the feds.
The “amotivational syndrome” attributed to marijuana
is actually due to an enlightened view of the evils of society and
an unwillingness to join the rest of the mice on the treadmill.
Unlike alcohol, marijuana is not associated with increased traffic
accidents, crimes, or shortened life expectancy. Why is it illegal?
The official hostility to marijuana is not only due to its widespread
availability and lack of controllability by the drug companies. The
establishment considers it dangerous because it is a mind expander.
The “amotivational syndrome” attributed to marijuana is actually due
to an enlightened view of the evils of society and an unwillingness
to join the rest of the mice on the treadmill.
Prop 215 is fairly liberal in its description of what marijuana can be recommended
to treat, and I keep within the specifics as much as possible. Many of my psychiatric
patients suffer from chronic pain, migraines, anorexia or arthritis, conditions
which are mentioned in Prop 215 as indications for cannabis therapy. When it
first passed, I gave a number of my patients written recommendations, on my
As it became known throughout the community that I was one of the few MDs who
was willing to provide this service, I was swamped with calls and visitors.
Within a few months, I adopted a strict policy: I would only issue permits
to people seeing me on a regular basis.
Some of the requests I received were highly suspicious. An elderly gentleman
called from Sacramento. Two bikers stopped by on their way through town. A
friend of a friend insisted he was told that I would provide marijuana. I wondered
if some of these people were undercover agents; now I am sure they were. I
still get such calls occasionally.
Although the whole process of review and sanctions has been extremely painful
and expensive, I refused to be intimidated. I continue to make marijuana available
to appropriate patients, and am very grateful to Tony Craver and Norm Vroman
for their support and enlightened approach to Prop 215. We are fortunate, here
in Mendocino county, that law enforcement understands the medicinal properties
of the herb.
I especially want to thank Sheriff Craver for his letter of support, along
with many of the local docs, pharmacists, and mental health professionals.
My family has been wonderful throughout this ordeal, and my faith in Jesus
has sustained me.
Marijuana promotes introspection and enables people
to withstand psychic as well as physical pain.
Carol Wolman, MD, photo by Noel Frazer
As a psychiatrist, I find the use of marijuana to be a valuable adjunct
to psychotherapy. It promotes introspection and enables people to withstand
psychic as well as physical pain, the pain associated with traumatic
memories, shame and guilt over wrongdoing, fear of persecution, etc.
There it aids in integration of the personality. It also dampens aggression —many
of my patients with impulse-control problems reach for a joint when
they feel like becoming violent.
If more people in the US used marijuana, we might see through the lies of the
politicians, renounce war, acknowledge our collective guilt towards native
Americans and indigenous people in other lands, come to grips with the threat
of nuclear weapons, global warming, and start being sensible. We might even
give up our dependence on oil!
Perhaps this is a pipe dream. Still, there must be some reason why this innocent
and useful herb is outlawed, while destructive chemicals like alcohol and nicotine
are tolerated, even encouraged. The antidepressants and antipsychotics so widely
used these days are psychically castrating. They promote weight gain, reduced
sex drive, and complacency with the current state of affairs. Marijuana, on
the other hand, promotes insight and a willingness to confront the powers that
be. No wonder they are threatened by it!
It is high time I spoke out to defend the right of doctors to recommend medical
marijuana without fear of indirect retribution, not covered by court decisions,
such as we on this panel have experienced. This herb should be widely available.
It is cheap, efficacious for many ills both physican and mental, and has fewer
short and longterm side effects than many pharmaceuticals. There should be
a Prop 215 in every state, and every physician should feel free to implement
Conference Draws 250
The Medical Marijuana Patients’ Union conference was
held in the auditorium of the Dana Gray Elementary School. It was well
organized and well attended (c. 250 people). In addition to the doctors’ panel
there were patients’ and law-enforcement panels. The district attorneys
of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, Norm Vroman and Paul Gallegos,
came out for defining the legal limit of how much marijuana a patient
or caregiver can grow in terms of area (100 square feet), not plant
Vroman revealed that Ram Dass (who is recovering from a serious stroke and
had spoken as a patient) was his “guru,” and that over the years he has read
and re-read everything Ram Dass has written… Antonia Lamb introduced Sheriff
Tony Craver with a song composed in his honor that rhymed “cream of the crops” with “cream
of the cops.” Craver revealed that Mendocino D.A. Norm Vroman was his guru… “Never
in all my years have I seen anything like this,” said Phil Leveque, the embattled
Oregon doctor, who was amazed and delighted to be in such a cannabis-friendly
milieu. Even Gallegos said it was unusual to be in a crowd where nobody thought
he was too lenient.
Oregon's Phil Levegue