Home Opinion What Exactly is Marijuana Dependence?

What Exactly is Marijuana Dependence?


Recently, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano had a brief opinion piece published by The New York Times. In it he addressed the fears brought up by a previous opinion piece in which a man named Neal Pollack told his story of marijuana addiction.

In his piece, Neal displays his impressive writing ability while describing behavior I have never encountered from someone who only used marijuana and didn’t combine it with other hard drugs and alcohol, but whether or not Neal Pollack exaggerated his claims is not the purpose of this piece.

My purpose is to distinguish between the words “addiction” and “dependence”. Many who address this issue use these words interchangeably, and this leads to a lot of confusion.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are some people who do not function well while using marijuana. If cannabis use is detrimental to your life and you cannot find the ability to quit, then that can rightly be labeled “addiction”.

But in my mind, “dependence” is something different. You can be dependent on something and still have it be a positive in your life. In fact, people are dependent on many things that are not detrimental to them.

I’ve used cannabis for over 20 years, and most of that time I have used it to alleviate the symptoms of a rather severe intestinal disorder that I suffer from. Many days, I cannot eat without the aid of marijuana. Does that make me dependent on it? Absolutely. Is my life worse off because of my ability to digest food? Hardly.

“Dependence” is a word used often by prohibitionists to play upon the fears of those who see loved ones addicted to hard drugs; they want to transfer that fear to cannabis. But being dependent on something is not always a bad thing; I would submit that it’s not even usually a bad thing.

Many of us have our lives enhanced by the things and people we are dependent upon. Millions of people have a quality of life they wouldn’t have if they didn’t use cannabis – that’s what medical marijuana is all about. Yes, millions are dependent on medicinal cannabis, and millions of people live better lives because of it.

Prohibitionists and their supporters want you to be ashamed of your “marijuana dependence”. But aren’t those who would deny access to medical marijuana to those who need it the ones who should be ashamed?