Campus & Community / News

Medical marijuana the topic of 2012 Penrose Lecture

Greg Campbell talks about his book "Pot, Inc." May 1 at Sturm Hall, room 248. Photo: Chris Hondros

When medical marijuana burst into the mainstream in Colorado, author Greg Campbell says his reaction was “a big shrug of the shoulders.”

“I don’t smoke marijuana, I don’t need medical marijuana, so I was right in the middle,” says Campell, author of Pot, Inc: Inside Medical Marijuana, America’s Most Outlaw Industry (Sterling, 2012).

Campbell says his views on the legalization of marijuana changed as he explored the medicinal marijuana industry “from the inside out” for his book. The award-winning journalist and author — whose work inspired the 2006 film Blood Diamond — will talk about how his opinion changed when he presents the sixth annual Penrose Library Author’s Lecture on May 1.

The Fort Collins, Colo., father — a self-described “cold beer kind of guy” who says he experimented with marijuana “back in the day” — started his research during the “Great Green Rush of 2009.”

That Green Rush “detonated,” in part, he writes in his book, because “the U.S. Justice Department issued an advisory memo to federal prosecutors suggesting they make busting medical-marijuana patients and businesses a low priority.”

“Pot smokers came out of the woodwork and, in Colorado, as elsewhere, they bum-rushed the state-run registry to declare their medical infirmities — which nine times out of 10 were suspiciously unobvious — in order to qualify as medical-marijuana users,” he writes in his book.

To supply this new crop of certified medical-marijuana users, for-profit marijuana dispensaries seemed to pop up overnight at strip malls across Campbell’s hometown and around the state.

“Naturally, I was curious to see if the rumors I’d heard of incalculable wealth were true, like someone lured to pan for gold during the Western migration — but I also wanted to learn about what was at its core: a pitched debate about whether or not medical marijuana was real or a ruse,” he writes.

As controversy swirled over the new for-profit industry, Campbell easily procured his own medicinal marijuana card (he has an old back injury), which authorized him to test the commercial value of growing medicinal marijuana to sell to dispensaries. Figuring this might be a good way to supplement his “not always reliable” income as a freelance writer, Campbell planted his own marijuana crop in his basement.

In the book, Campbell explores marijuana’s history as the “devil’s weed,” but also finds evidence, through research and interviews with people across the country, of the therapeutic value of marijuana for easing the nausea associated with chemotherapy, relieving the spasticity linked to muscular sclerosis, and increasing the appetite of AIDS patients.

“My eyes were really opened to a long history of very convincing literature, courtroom testimony and scientific reports that left no question in my mind that there is a very high potential for medicinal benefits,” he says.

One of the most moving stories recounted in the book involves Campbell’s cousin, who at 35 was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a little-known cancer that attacks the protective lining of the body’s organs. Friends and relatives suggested marijuana to relieve the pain and nausea of the disease and its treatments. Because the cousin lived in New York, which does not allow marijuana use for any reason, those who bought and delivered the pot to her broke the law to do so.

One of those people was her mother, who was in her 60s when she took the train to New York City to buy marijuana for her daughter from a street dealer, he says.

“My attitude changed then to serious indignation that people like my cousin and countless others have to behave like criminals to get pain relief,” he says, while “people in 16 states can walk to a corner emporium and shop [for marijuana] in an atmosphere that preserves their dignity.”

The lecture, which is co-sponsored by the provost’s office, will be held in Sturm Hall, room 248, from 12:30–1:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided. The free lecture is open to the DU community but reservations are required. For reservations, visit



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *