You call it marijuana and I call it medical cannabis

Sam Dyer was the first in depth case study I conducted to gain some understanding about the patient perspective about self medication.

Sam Dyer’s case came to public prominence in 2011. Original aired on the One Show and This Morning and available for further viewing and comment on You Tube, we witness a true life medical drama unfold between a father and son. Mediated by interview, our protagonist Sam Dyer who has a brain tumour rejects conventional medicine, including the expertise of his father, Dr Martin Dyer, a cancer specialist, in favour of using alternative medicines and medical cannabis in a bid to cure his tumour.  The rhetoric about biomedicine’s, inability to meet the medical needs of the chronically ill, has become part of the universal mantra, which has driven medical cannabis activism over time. Sam reiterates this in this interview when referring to his wellness strategy and comments that “We, have the right, to cure ourselves”.

The interview reveals the different models of thinking about biomedicine. Dr Dyer focusses on the fact that alternative therapies are untested and lack scientific validity and reliability. However, Sam’s tumour had shrunk in response to the cocktail of alternative therapies which further problematises biomedicine and alternative therapies. Although Dr Dyer posits a robust argument in favour of biomedicine his framing of cannabis is situated and understood within the social construct of marijuana – the prohibited substance deemed to have no medicinal value, stigmatised by society and policed by the state.

Dr Dyer is concerned about the illegal status of cannabis and although it was not mentioned specifically, Dr Dyer might have been concerned about the rising use of skunk, a high THC cannabis variant used by Sam’s generation. In other words Dr Martin Dyer calls it Marijuana. It appears that Sam however had a different relationship with cannabis and we can only speculate, that in response to his brain tumour, Sam became an engaged patient. He might have used the internet and patient forums as a resource to research and gain a nuanced understanding about the contemporary discourse on the medicinal value of cannabis. In other words, Sam calls it medical cannabis.

Sam Dyers case open up the discussion about the different points of view regarding the legitimacy of cannabis as a medicine and access to medical cannabis.  The trajectory of Sam’s story online gave some intimation about who the medical cannabis  patient is however this was just one aspect.


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