I want to thank Amy Stewart for her wake-up call about how the big outside world really operates in her article about the practicality of starting a cannabis-based tourist industry ("Dirt," April 1). But there is more.
Maybe the Federal DEA has been told by the Obama Administration to turn a blind eye concerning medical cannabis, but the FDA has not. The FDA regards cannabis in all its forms as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, up there with heroin, LSD and methamphetamine, with no medical use and a high potential for addiction. Also, the main active ingredient in cannabis (delta-9 THC) is a patented prescription drug (Marinol). It may seem like a contradiction that the plant is illegal while its main active ingredient is a prescription drug, but the company patented a "synthetic" form of THC to get around patent law, which prohibits companies from patenting natural ingredients. In fact, it is a strict condition that Marinol can only be made with synthetic THC because the government did not want anyone to start growing cannabis and extracting natural THC.
Stewart's suggestion that we should "develop standards for THC content" is a reasonable idea, but once you label a bottle of a cannabis product with the strength of an active ingredient you have made a drug product that comes under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Local pot dispensaries can label herb, pills and tinctures with THC content, but if anyone out there is thinking of starting a company to make cannabis products when cannabis is legal and then distribute them either in California or nationally to other states that allow cannabis then, unless you have FDA approval, think again. You would face large fines and possibly prison, and saying to the judge "but it's organic" is not going to help. Of course, if cannabis is taken off Schedule 1 status everything changes, but the federal government has no plans of doing that anytime soon.
The other concern that I have about starting a cannabis-based tourist industry is what happens if a future administration decides to restore sight to those blind DEA eyes.
Charles Davy, Bayside
In recent issues of the North Coast Journal, Kym Kemp, Amy Stewart and others discuss some of the consequences of an assembly bill and a ballot initiative that could legalize marijuana. One consequence that was not discussed is the social cost from the inevitable increase in the number of motorists driving "under the influence." My concern is that if and when marijuana is legalized, I will have to share the road with drivers who are under the influence of THC in addition to those impaired by alcohol and other drugs. According to the California Dept. of Alcohol and Drug Programs, over 32,000 people were killed or injured in 2007 in California alone due to impaired drivers. This number is larger than the total US casualty rate in both Iraq and Afghanistan for that same year, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center.
I believe that public debate regarding the legalization of marijuana must include its effect on highway safety. The promoters and marketers of legalized marijuana must accompany their efforts with a relentless and radical condemnation of driving under its influence through a comprehensive public service campaign. This proactive campaign must be aimed at creating such a powerful social stigma against driving while stoned as to serve as a deterrent that is more influential than are legal penalties.
The alcohol industry has made only token gestures to encourage the marketplace to "drink responsibly." I would like to see the nascent marijuana industry pioneer an aggressive and progressive endeavor to encourage responsible use of its product.
Carman Gentile, Arcata
Sweet Spot: Charles Davy wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.