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Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug

The following letter was sent in response to the article Lawsuit Over Marijuana Lab Raises Questions About Santa Monica's Pot Moratorium,” October 23, 2012.

October 25, 2012

To the Editor:

It can only be hoped that Councilmember Bob Holbrook knows more about the prescription medications he dispensed as a pharmacist, than what he knows about medical marijuana.

Holbrook's claim about marijuana being as dangerous as tobacco is nonsense. See the 2009 study from Brown University published in Cancer Prevention Research: "A Population-Based Case-Control Study of Marijuana Use and Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma" that concluded, "Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC." That is not the case with tobacco. Dr. Donald Tashkin's research at UCLA produced similar findings. In one of his many studies, Tashkin and his team noted in the 2006 study published in Cancer Epidemiology : "Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancers: Results of a Population-Based Case-Control Study" that, "the association of these cancers with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits." The Tashkin study actually took into account tobacco use by its participants.

Holbrook's further assertion that cannabis is a "precursor drug"(sic) is equally weak. Just because someone does A before B, does not mean that A actually caused B. Otherwise, the assertion that drinking milk leads to heroin addiction would be valid, since the vast majority of heroin addicts drank milk before they became addicts. Obviously such an assertion has no merit, since there is no chance of actual causation.

However, I'd assert that being a pharmacist and Santa Monica City Councilmember does not automatically result in the ability to think coherently about medicine and public policy.

Michael Backes
Sacramento, CA

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