I read Dr. Sherif El-Asyouty’s commentary about the harms of marijuana and, as a former police officer who worked to enforce California’s marijuana laws, I’d like to respond.

Even though I agree with the doctor that marijuana isn’t harmless, I still support passing Proposition 19 because I saw with my own eyes that current laws do nothing to stop use, and I’ve learned how prohibition actually increases danger.

Despite having extremely harsh marijuana laws, our country has the highest rate of cannabis consumption in the world. It is twice as high as the Netherlands, where commercial sales to adults have been tolerated for decades.

Meanwhile, prohibition isn’t even keeping marijuana out of youngsters’ hands, and actually seems to be increasing their access to the drug. Federal surveys consistently show more than 80 percent of teenagers say marijuana is “easy” or “very easy” to get. In a recent study from Columbia University, teenagers said it is easier to get illegal marijuana than age-regulated alcohol. Criminals, who control the illegal marijuana market, don’t ask for ID.

Passing Prop 19 would also curb violence. More than 28,000 Mexicans have been killed in the past four years in drug cartel turf wars, and the U.S. Department of Justice says that the cartels have already set up shop in at least 230 American cities. Ending prohibition would drastically decrease the power of these crime networks by evaporating the illegal market exactly as it did to the mafia and Al Capone when Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Finally, passing Prop 19 would help improve our finances. California’s Board of Equalization estimates $14 billion in cannabis transactions take place every year in the state and that, if legalized, these sales could generate $1.4 billion in revenue. That would help stop some of the alarming cuts to healthcare, public safety, education and transportation.

We can’t afford more of the same failed marijuana policies. Vote yes on 19.—Kyle Kazan, Long Beach, California (member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and a retired police officer and drug identification expert with the Torrance Police Department).


Sherif El-Asyouty, M.D. needs to do some basic research before opining about the dangers of marijuana. El-Asyouty tries to scare people by falsely claiming that “marijuana ranks ahead of alcohol in terms of drug-related admissions to emergency rooms- it is the second most commonly detected drug.” This assertion is contradicted by survey data published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Investigators at the University of Michigan reviewed the overall prevalence of drug-related emergency department (ED) visits among lifetime users of illicit substances. Among those surveyed, subjects who reported using cannabis were the least likely to report an ED visit (1.71 percent). Investigators concluded, “[M]arijuana was by far the most commonly used (illicit) drug, but individuals who used [it] had a low prevalence of drug-related ED visits.” Also, “Self-reported marijuana use in the previous seven days was associated with a substantially decreased risk of injury.”

A 2009 Swiss study published in the journal BMC Public Health reported that the use of cannabis was inversely associated with injuries requiring hospitalization. A prior case-control study conducted by the University of Missouri also reported an inverse relationship between cannabis use and injury risk, finding, “Self-reported marijuana use in the previous seven days was associated Š with a substantially decreased risk of injury.”

El-Asyouty tries to frighten people with myths of maniac pot smokers running wild on the freeways even though peer reviewed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies prove that marijuana smokers are safer drivers than teetotalers. Evidence gathered showed that “The THC-only drivers had [an accident] responsibility rate BELOW that of the drug-free drivers, as was found previously by Williams and colleagues (1986).” “There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes.”

Marijuana is the least toxic drug known to man. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response. Since consuming such a quantity is utterly impossible there is no fatal dose for marijuana. (See Decision of Drug Enforcement Administration Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, September 6, 1988, pages 53-69.)

El-Asyouty’s position as a psychiatrist and co-medical director of Recovery Road Medical Center in Santa Barbara reveals his hypocrisy because many of the psychotropic drugs used in his field are very dangerous and cause many injuries and many deaths every year. Five thousand years of history does not show a single fatality from marijuana use.—Ralph Givens, Daly City, California


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