Photo By dennis myers

We Really Lost This War! Twenty-five Reasons to Legalize
is the title of a book now going into its second printing. It
was written by physician Stephen Frye, retired from the Nevada School
of Medicine, a task that took more than three years. The new printing
will be available in about a month. A website on the book is at

What made you write the book?

I wrote the book because I originally started prescribing medical
marijuana in the ’90s in Santa Rosa, California. It was legal,
and surgeons would refer me their failed patients. Every neurosurgeon
and orthopedic surgeon has people who’ve had two or three failed
operations, and they can do nothing else for them. But they need pain
management and surgeons don’t want to sit around writing
prescriptions for Vicodin and Oxycontin. They like to operate. So they
would send me the patients, and out of desperation I tried a bunch of
different things and researched marijuana and found out you cannot die
from marijuana. It’s the safest recreational over-the-counter or
prescription drug in history. There’s no lethal toxic dose. …
So I [prescribed] marijuana and to my amazement two-thirds to
three-quarters of the patients got mild to significant
benefit—nobody harmed. That’s how I originally got started.
… Most people don’t realize the single biggest determinant of
their health care is political decisions—what Medicare covers and
doesn’t cover, what the insurance companies are required to do by
the government. … So I started researching. We had some talk
shows on drugs and researched all of them. And the bottom line that I
have documented in my book is, No. 1, the war on drugs kills far more
people than drugs. … Our murder rate is four times higher than in
the Netherlands where drugs are legal, and even worse with teenagers,
our murder rate is 19 times higher. But this never makes the front
page, predominantly because it’s African-Americans who are
involved in the issue and not white kids.

I remember reading that marijuana was first
made illegal over the protests of the American Medical Association, but
once it was done the medical community didn’t fight to get it
back because a lot of physicians were disdainful of the people who
smoked marijuana.

That I don’t know. That would be difficult to document. But
the big problem is it then became very politically beneficial to be
tough on drugs. You could get elected if, you know, you’re going
to lock them up and put them away. The problem is that we have more
prisoners in the United States than any other country in the world. And
the war on drugs is predominantly a war on marijuana. Eighty-nine
percent of arrests are marijuana possession—not distribution, not
sales, simple possession. So the war on drugs is a war on marijuana,
which as I say, is the safest drug there is.

I guess what I’m asking is, why
doesn’t the medical community get more involved?

I wish I had a good answer for you. I am a physician. There are a
few of us, but it’s certainly not a majority opinion.

I’ve found that a lot of people, once
medicine is taken care of, they seem to be satisfied, opposed to
further legalization as long as patients are protected.

The problem is that people do not understand the ramifications.
…The drug war is not just a failure, it’s a monumental
fiasco. The drug war kills more people than drugs. Prison kills more
people, than drugs. One third of prisoners are dead by age 45. People
don’t know that. So marijuana can’t kill you, but prison
sure can.

Avatar photo

Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...