JOS-2019-106.R1_Proof_hi.pdf (235.77 kB)
Download file

Can the subaltern heal? Medical marijuana in Aotearoa New Zealand

Download (235.77 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2020-07-22, 02:44 authored by Kevin DewKevin Dew, L Armstrong
© The Author(s) 2020. In this article the concepts of statist medicine and subaltern therapeutics are used to provide insight into the debates over the therapeutic use of marijuana in cases of serious or terminal illness. In 2015 medical marijuana gained public attention in Aotearoa New Zealand as cases of people facing life-threatening conditions who wished to use marijuana for therapeutic purposes were given voice in the popular media. In Aotearoa New Zealand marijuana use is illegal for recreational purposes, but theoretically patients with particular conditions could gain access to medicinal forms of marijuana if health professionals, the Ministry of Health and the relevant government minister approved. This approval process is embedded within statist medicine’s regulatory regimes, where access can be provided on condition that the medication meets standards of safety and efficacy. Patients faced with the difficulty of negotiating the processes of statist medicine to access medical marijuana often reverted to illegal means of accessing the plant. Access to illegal forms of marijuana for medical purposes could be through ‘green fairies’, people who provided the plant for therapeutic purposes in a way that was distant from the criminalised recreational use of the drug obtained through ‘dealers’. The process of the state, patients and marijuana providers negotiating the regulation of therapeutic uses of marijuana provides insights into the role of statist medicine and subaltern therapeutics. The case of medical marijuana alerts us to the possibilities of other subaltern therapeutic practices that operate beyond the gaze of the state.


Preferred citation

Dew, K. & Armstrong, L. (2020). Can the subaltern heal? Medical marijuana in Aotearoa New Zealand. Journal of Sociology, 144078332092514-144078332092514.

Journal title

Journal of Sociology

Publication date





SAGE Publications

Publication status


Online publication date






Article number

UNSP 1440783320925144