Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2000
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2000, Ukiah Daily Journal
Contact:  590 S. School St. Ukiah, CA 95482
Fax: (707) 468-5780
Author: Peter Keegan


To the editor:

Your lead article on Sunday (Oct. 29) seems to imply that marijuana causes 
lung cancer. Glenda Anderson reports that crime fighter Bob Nishiyama 
thinks some of the medical reasons for marijuana use are bogus because they 
have been issued for alcoholism: "I'm a little lost why that's good thing. 
So you get lung cancer, but not cirrhosis."

There is no evidence showing higher rates of lung cancer in people who use 
marijuana. Mr. Nishiyama has confused tobacco with marijuana. While there 
is overwhelming evidence that tobacco use causes heart disease, emphysema, 
and cancers of all type, that has never been shown for marijuana. An 
average cigarette smoker, uses 100-200 inhalations a day for decades, and 
faces a 50-fold increase in lung cancer.

Marijuana users don't even have to smoke to enjoy it. Many chose to eat it 
or drink it as a tea. And if a person does chose to smoke, a typical 
marijuana smoker will use just a few inhalations.

Moreover, liver disease (whether from alcoholism, common viral infections, 
congenital defects, or bile duct obstruction) is often accompanied by 
intractable nausea and anorexia for which marijuana is highly therapeutic. 
So, to answer Mr. Nishiyama's quandary, marijuana use is a good thing 
because it reduces their suffering. I also felt reporter Glenda Anderson 
was misleading in Friday's issue when she reported comments from the Prop. 
G debate out of context: "Dr. Keegan's also not concerned about teenagers 
using marijuana..."For the record, let me be clear. I do not think 
teenagers should use drugs of any type.

But, regardless of what I, or any parent, wants, teenagers are using drugs. 
The Public Health Dept. surveyed high school juniors in Mendocino County in 
1993 and 60 percent had used drugs, other than alcohol, to get high. In the 
class of 1999 at Ukiah, 60 percent of the graduating honor students had 
used marijuana. That is our reality.

Clearly, "just say no" and "zero tolerance" are not effective. In fact, to 
tell teenagers "you can't," often is counterproductive because of their 
natural rebelliousness. As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility 
to be truthful, which we currently are not.

Marijuana is a mild intoxicant, has no lethal overdose potential, little 
risk of addiction, and no long-term health consequences. By way of 
comparison, 40,000 people die from alcohol every year (not counting auto 
accidents), lethal overdoses are common, some people become fiercely 
addicted, and long term use can cause liver failure, pancreatitis, heart 
failure, and bleeding ulcers to name just a few of the ugly health 
consequences of alcoholism. Tobacco products cause 400,000 premature deaths 
every year, are highly addictive, and the health hazards are legion. 
Heroin, amphetamines, and cocaine are also readily available to Ukiah youth 
and they all can result in lethal overdose, addiction, and adverse health 
effects. As parents, we want our young people to be safe. The halcyon days 
of yore are long gone, and the risks of modern living are real. Safety 
demands that young people be provided with truthful information about the 
risks they face. When we lie to them about marijuana, we completely lose 
our credibility. As a result, youth don't believe our teaching about 
alcohol and heroin with unfortunate lethal consequences.

A person can use marijuana and also be a productive and useful citizen. My 
comment that you can smoke marijuana and be president of the United States 
was not just a reference to Clinton, but also acknowledges that our current 
candidates, G.W. Bush and Al Gore, have both used marijuana.

Peter Keegan, Ukiah
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D