Opposite argument about marijuana leads to same conclusion

I read your article this morning, and I think you’re pandering to the ignorant, indulgent masses. With more than 50 years in the health care field, and the first M.D. to be board-certified in occupational and environmental medicine in Nevada (1980) and additional certification as a medical review officer for drug surveillance and rehab, I think I know what the facts are.

Comparing marijuana to alcohol or other mind-altering substances is deliberately misleading. Alcohol and smoking account for approximately 50 percent of our health care bill. These are stupid, self-gratifying, voluntary decisions that cost society in dollars, injuries and premature deaths. The innocent people who do not partake are victims from those that do partake.

Marijuana has no medical benefit that cannot be duplicated by prescription drugs. For example: nausea from chemotherapy. These are all ploys to circumvent existing laws. You say legalize and tax. The money from taxing pales in comparison to the cost of adverse effects on society, just as with alcohol and smoking. Regulation is a buzzword, and in states that voted for it – in defiance of federal law – they admit they aren’t sure how they can effectively regulate it.

It’s bad enough facing drunk drivers on the road, walking or waiting for a bus; I don’t want marijuana upping the odds of injury and/or death. Tests in flight simulators demonstrated that one marijuana cigarette compromised performance in commercial pilots for as long as 12 hours. Police have also stated that marijuana use accompanies an increase in crime. – L.K., Las Vegas

Thanks for weighing in here, L.K., especially with all your knowledge, training and experience. Yet you’ve done something here that happens often to me. It’s a source of endless fascination since I began writing this column years ago. You understand yourself to disagree with me … yet in so doing, you make my point in spades.

Which makes me wonder if my point was clear. Allow me to review what my point was not.

My point was not that marijuana use was always benign and in every case inconsequential. It’s not. Neither do I want impaired drivers and airplane pilots. Hell, I think smoking cigarettes while driving should be outlawed. Can’t be a good idea to light fires in your car and wrangle open flames and embers while changing lanes at 65 mph! You think cellphones are a distraction? Try driving while trying to pat out the live ash you just dribbled in your lap!

My point was not, “Yippee, let’s all get baked!” Frankly, I don’t need another vice. Of course, the medical benefits of marijuana can/could be duplicated by prescription drugs. But the medical benefits of drinking red wine could likewise be duplicated. You say recreational marijuana use is an indulgence. Specifically, an indulgence of the “ignorant, indulgent masses.” Well, so is the beer-drinking I was doing last night while watching the Packers beat the Lions. (Victoria Beer, by the way. Made in Mexico. Decided to give it a try.)

Yes, human beings are an indulgent lot – with ice cream, Netflix, aerosol cheese product squirted on crackers, pedicures … and beverage alcohol. And marijuana, apparently. Individual people must decide for themselves which occasional indulgences in what proportion and frequency add beauty, meaning and recreational pleasure (the word “recreate” means literally to re-create) to a life well-lived, as opposed to behavior fostering laziness, irresponsibility, unhealth, addiction or other antisocial behavior.

You say that comparing marijuana use to alcohol use is deliberately misleading. But then you point out that alcohol and tobacco account for 50 percent of our health costs. Again, good man, you’re making the only point I was trying to make: I am no longer in possession of one intelligent argument why marijuana should be treated any differently as an indulgent recreation or a destructive vice than America’s most self-evidently destructive vice – drinking!

All I’m saying is all I’m saying: Alcohol is legal … marijuana is not. I cannot defend that position intellectually or morally. Measured in social consequences, it would actually seem more logical for it to be the other way around. As it stands, the position of the federal government seems painfully and absurdly contradicted on this issue.

Not to mention that I no longer trust the Fed’s motive on this one. The War On Drugs is, for some folks, a very, very important industry to keep going.

In short, everything you said was true, and I thank you for saying it. The irony between us is that we are using the same truth to point to two different conclusions.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or

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