Cassandra Farrington: ‘Weed Wars’ Fuels Negative Perceptions of Medical Pot

, Cassandra Farrington: ‘Weed Wars’ Fuels Negative Perceptions of Medical Pot
By Cassandra Farrington

First let’s get my credentials out there. I am a fugitive from Corporate America and the COO of a publishing company. I run a small business with a solid base, and have dreams of turning the company into something bigger.

I live in the suburbs with my husband, two kids and a dog. I lead my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and my husband coaches the soccer team.  In my younger years I certainly nursed a hangover or three, though I reliably left the party when more adventurous friends broke out the illicit substances. I vote based on my own opinions of issues which I’ve researched, not on partisan ideology or media scare tactics.

In short, I’m the person the medical marijuana and legalization lobbies need to convince of your legitimacy.

Yet here’s a heads up for all you MMJ industry folks: “Weed Wars” – the Discovery Channel reality show that focuses on Harborside Health Center in California – is not doing anything to convince me that the potential risks of legalizing cannabis are worth the potential benefits.

Here’s why: A key element of “medical marijuana” is the medical piece of it. Every other over-the-counter or prescription medication I’m aware of is administered on a proscribed regimen for a specific, defined affliction. Take two ibuprofen every four hours as needed for pain. Apply ointment twice a day to affected area to control itchy rash.

In contrast, the individuals I’ve become aware of in this industry – including the owners, management and staff at Harborside as I’ve seen them represented in the show – appear to use marijuana in a haphazard fashion. I see no evidence that these individuals have a medical condition with a definable cause and standard treatment plan.

Instead, I see them wanting to get high.

Please know that I have nothing at all against medical marijuana. I have nothing against marijuana in general, for that matter. Banning something to prevent access to it has always seemed like backwards thinking to me.

My aforementioned adventurous friends with their illicit substances never seemed to cause disaster or incite mayhem. My company’s newest launch, MMJ Business Daily, is clearly tied to this industry. The fate of the publication – and my personal investment in it – lies with the success or failure of a continued state-sanctioned MMJ marketplace with limited federal interference.

So beyond a fairly agnostic personal view, from a professional perspective I’d love to see this industry succeed.

Yet “Weed Wars” highlights the laissez-faire approach to drug use that appears pervasive in this industry. A grower is handed an edible sample in an exchange that seems a lot more like vendor relationship-building than anything else, the same way my business might give a key partner a complimentary copy of a new report.

In another clip, a senior staff member jokes that the employees are not able to “medicate” (air quotes included in the video clip) at a company-hosted lunch. Why on earth would you need medication to get through a staff lunch? I like my staff, and enjoy it when we get to spend time together in a more casual environment.

All of which makes me wonder: maybe this isn’t truly about medicine. Maybe these folks beating the legalization drum are in fact just hiding behind the handful of patients with seizure disorders, debilitating pain and cancer. While I’ve become convinced that there are some few individuals who genuinely do not have other alternatives to ease their conditions, I’m likewise convinced that there are many more individuals who would get along just fine – probably better – if they weren’t high on marijuana all the time.

As an independent-thinking American with small kids and a small business, my next logical step is to consider what the cost/benefit of medical marijuana is. How many people are genuinely being helped, compared to those who have been enabled to pursue their marijuana habit?

As I head into a voting booth, the conclusions I have reached in my own mind are not in the industry’s favor.

Cassandra Farrington is COO/CFO at Anne Holland Ventures, Inc., the parent company of MMJ Business Daily. Previously a VP at Citi, she earned her MBA from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.


11 comments on “Cassandra Farrington: ‘Weed Wars’ Fuels Negative Perceptions of Medical Pot
  1. Bud S. Moker on

    I believe you are correct on your feelings towards MMJ. I also believe that all out legalization for ANY use is the answer. And, perception drugs HAVE to be given in certain doses because otherwise they can/will cause organ damage and/or other side effects. Marijuana’s only side effects are cotton-mouth, mental high, and nervousness amounghts some patients.

    In short, I believe you are right that many/most people do not have classic medical problems and simply want to get high. However, in so doing they are relieving STRESS which is the true #1 killer, thus saving the medical industry time and money in the long run.

    Legalization is a far better answer.

    Time to ya soon,


  2. Julie Koehler on

    As a chronic pain patient I can tell you WHY a person might need to medicate through a luncheon. Pain doesn’t know it’s lunchtime. Think of it as a “toothache”, does it stop just because it’s time to eat? No. There’s always taking a lower dose to medicate, like eating a specifically dosed candy medible. Many people can only work while on medication. I have systemic lupus and trigeminal neuralgia, which has a nickname, “the suicide disease”, and causes the most horrible pain known to man. As a patient, I agree with you, Weed Wars isn’t helping the situation, and believe me I understand the situation. I LIVE in ARIZONA where the dispensaries are caught up in legal action with the Brewer lawsuit so us patients rely on caregivers and live in fear of having our meds ripped from us even though the people voted for it’s legalization. I tell you what, I don’t care WHO makes/grows/manufacturers the medication, it just matters that it’s available. I mean, do we really care about the personal tribulations of the person who invented the polio vaccine? Not really. I’m with you though, making illegal in the first place isn’t the answer. Maybe an age limit, like drinking would be better. Thanks for listening! Julie

  3. Cassandra Farrington on

    Hi Julie – As stated above, I am convinced that there are individuals for whom MMJ is the perfect answer to real medical problems. It sounds as if you fall in that category. For those situations, I agree that one might need medication at any particular time of day.

    At the staff lunch featured in the show, my clear impression was that “medication” in its traditional, widely-held definition had nothing to do with the purpose for wanting to use the drug.

    It just feels as if there is a major lack of self-awareness among key MMJ industry players who have no idea of the harm caused by comments such as that one.

    Best wishes to you.

  4. Adam on

    The more important fact in the over all battle, is not a bunch of stoners on “Weed Wars” or any other show. It is about freedom, and until somebody is paying for my health benefits, they should not determine what medications I take, that should be left up to my Physician and myself. In fact Big Gov does not regulate sugar intake, which of course is a leading killer in this country, instead they subsidize the hell out of sugar beat farmers, while claiming they have our health and well being in mind, dont think so, I’m not an idiot. So please dont tell me what substances (especially ones I believe to be harmless) to put into my body, thank you.

    For the love of being free!

  5. Sean on

    What? You’re basing your “expert” opinion about MMJ from what you see on a TV show? And what are the people in the MMJ industry supposed to do about how they’re characterized on reality TV (you really think reality TV depicts reality?)?

  6. cassandraf on

    Hi Sean – thanks for the feedback. You’re right that I am not an MMJ professional, and I don’t claim significant expertise in that area.

    Instead, The column is written from the perspective of an average mainstream American who happens to have an “in” to this industry, in an attempt to help those of you who ARE full-time industry professionals understand the perspective of the general population.

    For what it’s worth, though, I didn’t invest to build a publication in an industry I knew nothing about, and I’ve learned a great deal more since we entered this area. As I wrote in the column, “Weed Wars” highlights the attitude I’ve noticed throughout the MMJ industry.

  7. James on

    I greatly enjoyed reading your piece regarding the image portrayed in Weed Wars.
    It is indeed a very thinly veiled truth that the majority of “patients” are just people wanting to
    enjoy cannabis similarly to an evening cocktail or beer. However the federal government continuing to classify this substance as a “schedule 1” drug, has forced the movement to get the “elephant’s trunk in the tent”, and bring our government to address this issue.
    Despite the fact that more than one-third of American citizens now live in states that permit medical pot, the number of marijuana arrests continues to rise each year. In fact, last year 758,000 individuals were arrested for simple possession of marijuana. These are our family members and friends, who are arrested, fired, denied student aid, kicked out of housing, or lose their children simply because of marijuana prohibition. This is the “story” that needs attention, billions of dollars spent on a useless prohibition.
    Our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, said it best, “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded”.

    Weed Wars tries to bring a positive image to cannabis businesses, and for the first time polls show a majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis for adult use. I trust the “soccer mom’s” judgement to see that a 60 year old Steve DeAngelo and his employees are not hurting anyone, are providing jobs, and are also helping the many touching cases that are poignantly highlighted in the show.
    The medical marijuana movement is about much more than cannabis. It’s about the right to choose what we put in our body, to choose what we call medicine. It’s also about injecting some rationality into a country rife with prejudices and injustices that have eviscerated both the trust and stability of its most common citizens.

    James Slatic

  8. cassandraf on

    Excellent points, James. I absolutely agree that Steve and his team are not harming anyone, notwithstanding the possibility of an uneducated youngster getting their hands on something they are not mature enough to understand or handle. And that possibility might actually be lessened with full legalization alongside appropriate regulatory control.

    I think though that the MMJ advocates can’t have it both ways: claiming that it’s “medical”, and also using it, as you very effectively stated, in lieu of an evening cocktail.

    I personally don’t have any problem with full legalization. But I do have a problem with people telling me one thing and showing something different. That makes me question their motives and wonder if they’re trying to hide something – not emotions that MMJ advocates want reinforced.

  9. Sean on

    Cassandra, your concern about teens “getting their hands on something” is an old canard. They already can and do get their hands on it. They have for decades. Also, your point that advocates can’t have it both ways is a false dichotomy. One of many examples would be stimulants: Many enjoy and use caffeine or energy drinks;yet in a different form, the stimulants are effectively used for ADHD. So why can’t one effectively advocate for MMJ and enjoy cannabis recreationally? It’s not either or. It’s a continuum.

  10. Cassandra Farrington on

    Hi Sean –

    Fair enough, however whether the MMJ lobby likes it or not, caffeine stimulants do not have the PR issues which cannabis has.

    While it may be based on faulty science and reasoning, even though it’s been unfairly targeted over other more harmful substances by the DEA and FDA, the perception of mainstream America is that the “medical” marijuana lobby is really just folks who want to use it personally, and who don’t have a real medical condition. These are the people who feel (in some cases based on their own experience with the drug) that it makes people stupid and is a gateway drug to more harmful substances.

    It’s this perception issue that must be overcome for MMJ or legalization efforts to succeed. And across the industry, with Weed Wars as just one example, the behaviors of the individuals behind the lobbying efforts reinforce the perception instead of rising above it.

  11. Sean on


    What public polling surveys can you point to to support this statement: “the perception of mainstream America is that the “medical” marijuana lobby is really just folks who want to use it personally, and who don’t have a real medical condition”? I’d like to know as I’ve not seen such evidence.

    I have to say I’m completely shocked to see you give any credence to the “gateway” argument. This is the oldest canard in the book. Again, people’s reactions to THC, like various types of alcohol and other drugs, are completely individual. ADHD children, for instance, are calmed by stimulants that would you or me possibly racy.

    It kind of sounds to me like you attended a MMJ convention and were shocked to discover that the dispensary owners just happen to like smoking marijuana! 🙂

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