Pubdate: Tue, 10 Mar 1998
Date: 10/03/1998
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: J. Thomas Ungerleider MD
Note: Dr. Ungerleider is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry UCLA Medical Center

Scott Gottlieb (Opinion, Sept. 27) suggests that making marijuana
available medically will result in U.S. physicians regularly abusing
marijuana, causing the "stoned age" of medicine.

That certainly has never happened with physicians prescribing
morphine and the other opiates, cocaine and even methamphetamine.
Gottlieb cites the British experience, where medical use of marijuana
is encouraged, and he alleges that "46% of medical students in England
have tried marijuana at least once, while 10% claimed to smoke one
joint or more per week." He connects this with Britain's early efforts
to legalize recreational marijuana use. Interestingly, we have data on
American medical students' use of marijuana in 1971, before anyone
thought about its medical uses. Fully 72% of medical students surveyed
in a Southern California medical school had tried marijuana at least
once, 18% smoked at least once weekly and over 40% used at least once
monthly, far more than our British colleagues (Ungerleider, et al.,
Journal of the American Medical Assn., 1971). Before 1975 in
California, being "under the influence of" marijuana was a felony;
conviction resulted in a minimum mandatory sentence of 90 days in
jail. Thus the high use was despite draconian laws.

J. THOMAS UNGERLEIDER MD Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry UCLA
Medical Center