Marijuana, Accutane and California’s Prop 19

I wrote a colum for this week on California’s Prop 19, which would legalize possession and use of marijuana in the state. I did so from the perspective of a lawyer who has been helping past users of Accutane figure out how to proceed with their claims for damages from IBS and Crohn’s etc. Accutane has turned out to have some very terrible side effects for some users, the sort of effects that would have deterred use had they been known a decade or two ago. My column asks whether we are confident enough about long term effects of use to unleash dope on the state. The posters at are virulently certain that dope never harmed anyone or anything, which is absurd, but does reflect the passion among the pro-legalization crowd. What do you think? 20 years from now, will there be a raft of lawsuits aimed at the producers and distributors of marijuana, and will they have the assets to pay the claims?


  1. Andrew Jones says

    In twenty years, California marijuana growers will be taxed to their red eyeballs. Those same growers will be enduring lawsuits from people who had no idea that smoking pot could cause cancer, reduce their decision making ability, or impair their driving. There will be lawsuits over the feelings of uneasiness and hunger the drug induced which caused people to eat lots of fatty foods and develop a heart condition, which also was aggravated by smoking. Lawsuits claiming that the drug’s widely varying potency per dose was in itself harmful will be wide spread. The FDA will be sued for failing to live up to its responsibility to ensure the safety of the drug supply, and no one will remember that the FDA refused to approve of medical marijuana and that California defied federal law to allow it. As California will be bankrupt, the disability checks for these people, the cost to the state for its own lawyers, and the state subsidy to assist people in their purchase of medical marijuana, will be paid for by federal programs. The federal government will get that money from taxpayers in Texas.

    • Hugh Hewitt says

      Eaxctly correct, and the local governments licensing these facilities will be sued by the folks citing ill effects of the dope.

  2. Allison Coates says

    The level of logical discontinuity required to be a hysterial anti-tobacco-smoking nanny and at the same time, support marijuana legalization, is beyond reality to me.

    These are the same people who made it impossible for a smoker to smoke in their own car, in their own residence, underneath an overhang so they won’t get rained on, because it offended their fragile little sense of smell, and supported their moral superiority. And yet marijuana is safe???

    Twice now, I’ve known men who died before they were 60 from extremely aggressive lung cancer, lung cancer undiagnosed until it was end-stage, with less than 4 months to go. Both times, the men claimed to never have been smokers to their doctors, and both times, the men were heavy pot smokers in the 60s and 70s.

    I know, my anecdotes aren’t data. But they are typical lies that the Boomers told themselves, and those lies aren’t going to come to light en masse it seems–I guess not until it’s legalized and the tort lawyers do.

    It’s a terrible idea for this reason, but also for another reason: the marijuana that people remember from their boomer days has little of any resemblance to the high-THC-level concoctions created now. The drug aailable now is a potent psychoactive. Telling teens that it’s okay to alter their brain chemistry with potent psychoactives is going to have long term consequences for society.

    And lastly, legalization doesn’t solve the problem of junkies. No one has a good solution to the problem of junkies, and that was why social mechanisms such as shame were the main weapon–because what your peer group thinks of you, what your employer thinks of you, what your potential spouse thinks of you, might curb your negative impulses. Legalization will create more junkies.

    • Hugh Hewitt says

      Allison: I cannot find any studies on long term lung cancer consequences of dope smoking. If you see a link, please post, as it is one of the key and obvious issues here.


      • MJB Wolf says

        Long-term studies of hash smokers were conducted and reported in the ’80s with the expected results. However, most of the participants (from memory, I believe they were in the Armed Forces) were also daily cigarette smokers. Admittedly, hashish is more dense and “smoky” than cannabis, but the chemical makeup up pot has changed greatly in the last 30 years too, always in the direction of more THC and related compounds. It’s safe to say daily smoking where the substance is inhaled is inherently bad for the lungs. Anyone who grew up in SoCal during the ’60s can tell you how their lungs hurt during the summer “smog” season.

  3. Nick Stuart says

    Many of the supporters of keeping marijuana illegal are among those how decry the food police and actions like San Francisco dictating the items that will be sold in beverage machines.

    On the other hand I say let me eat and smoke what I want. As it happens I eat pretty healthy and don’t smoke anything, but I don’t like the government telling me what I can and can’t do in either realm.

    Will there be deleterious effects of legalizing pot? Yes. Are there deleterious effects of keeping it illegal? Again, yes.

    We’re confronted not with a good and bad choice, only a choice between bad and worse. While legalization is a bad choice, I believekeeping pot illegal is a worse choice.

    • Hugh Hewitt says

      Nick: The prohibition of that which is already legal is a much more absurd choice than the decision to keep illegal that which already is. At a minimum in the latter case the state and its representatives can take the time to assess the costs associated with the legalization without disrupting any legal business.

  4. Casey Bahr says

    Huge fan!
    Luckily, I’m an Accutane success story. I did my first round in the mid 80’s when they threw high doses at the disease before they knew about monitoring blood and liver levels. I needed three more rounds, one 4-5 month term and two 30 day follow up terms. These were all carefully monitored as is done now. I’m acne free for 15 years and counting.
    I know there are those who have had negative, long-term, side effects. I would just hope that a medicine that helps so many, and with no other reliable Rx alternative, be withdrawn because of the expense of dealing with a small percentage of people with adverse reactions.
    You might want to talk with Dr. James Fulton, co-creator of RetinA and Vivant Skincare, about Accutane issues. His number is 1-305-470-1178.

    • Hugh Hewitt says

      I suspect that the majority of Accutane users, like the majority of marijuana users, don’t experience the worst of the side effects. The question is one of risk, and whether people will knowingly run those risks. Woudl you take the Accutane again, even given great success against the acne, but aware of the IBS and IBD associated with the drug?

      • Casey Bahr says

        I would take Accutane again. Both of my daughters took Accutane with perfect results, no cystic acne and no scars. They had the usual dry lips and sensitive skin, that was it.
        I don’t know how soon the severe, long term, side effects can be picked up by the physicians so the treatment can be stopped and the patient protected if they’re prone to damage.

  5. Jim Manning says

    The problem is the “it’s harmless” line from proponents, such as Steven Greenhut (, late of the OC Register. My wife’s counselling practice indicates otherwise. And, the literature about the various side effects is beginning to catch up, but there hasn’t been much in the popular media that I’ve seen. Perhaps that will change as we approach November.

  6. Mary Griswold says

    I realize that observation is not the same as scientific information, but it seems to me that in the one instance that I am closely aware of involving pot–a high schooler who was a heavy pot smoker–the impact on his life was ALL negative. I don’t know whether the nerve disease he is dealing with is a result of what was mixed in with the pot. I don’t know if his failure to accomplish what he is capable of is a result of the pot. The person I am thinking of has been clean and straight for more than twenty years, but I feel as if he is still paying the price for the foolishness of his youth. His brain does not seem to be able to put one logical thought in front of another. When pot is illegal, it is (unfortunately) fairly easy to obtain. I can’t think of anything to be gained by making it legal.

  7. MJB Wolf says

    Interesting topic, and one in which I have (regrettably) a lot of experience. It is undeniable that their are psychoactive effects from smoking marijuana and even stoners will agree to that. One widely noticed effect is passivity, what St. Paul wrote about as “dissipation of the Spirit” when one is drunk or stoned. The effect is much longer lasting than the “high” and is why many former stoners consider pot a “dream killing” drug, because it tends to result in users putting off important tasks and taking on a “whatever” type of attitude. In my case it greatly contributed to a 10-year detour between by BA in English and my MBA in Marketing, and they weren’t highly productive years. Very few highly successful people can achieve what they do while in a haze. Pot puts people in a haze during and after using it.

    I am torn as to the issue of keeping it illegal or regulating it. If I had any confidence in the FDA I would urge it be legalized, standardized and used responsibly under a doctor’s order, but I don’t have that confidence at all. Once nicotine was recognized for the powerful drug it is, we should likely should have addressed it through the FDA. But, again, it is an agency both timid and overreaching at the same time. We don’t have a good model here on which to base our decisions about marijuana. Instead, we do have the Dutch model and the news isn’t great. Therefore I will likely vote against this new law and be on the losing end of another California vote.

    To elaborate on just one pint though, let’s look at the effects on the Netherlands. Stoners will say, often in the course of extolling the virtues of pot vis-a-vis alcohol, that pot makes you mellow. Stoners don’t start wars, Man. Maybe that’s true, but the passivity exhibited by long-term marijuana use is not a national asset. And over the last 30 years, as Amsterdam has gained its reputation as a stoners paradise, the Dutch have allowed their country to be overrun with Islamists. The radicals are the opposite of “mellow” and have effectively cowed the native populace. I have no evidence beyond observation, but I don’t think the two are unrelated.

  8. Keith Hanks says

    In our city we are trying to keep youth from huffing, and to encourage them to wear helmets when they ride bikes. Why would we want to encourage something like legal marijuana for them?

    We have had promoters come to our city council and encourage us to accept medical marijuana dispensaries, telling us that we would make a lot of money from them. So far we have a moratorium on them and probably will as long as California law and Federal law are at cross purposes on the legality of marijuana.

    Who knows, someday someone may force us to accept one and we may have to provide a zone where one could be permitted, like we are required to provide zoning where adult businesses can be permitted. I told our Chief of Police that I have the ideal location. We could put it in the lobby of his Police Station. It is the safest place in town. No person who has a legitimate reference from his or her doctor would need to feel the least intimidated by going there. We could simply make a deal with the Sherriff to use this as a means of legally destroying confiscated marijuana and take all of the profit motive out of the distribution of legal medical marijuana. Any one who is trying to cheat and obtain marijuana for illegal use would have a very short trip to the jail.

    I have experienced great pain, and know others who have. I understand what a blessing the release from pain can be. We have a way to get powerful and addictive medications into peoples hands who need them, safely. FDA approval, licensed manufacture, and distribution through pharmacies by prescription. If marijuana were distributed this way I would not have anything to say against it. So far the proposals lack control of production, no guarantee of quality, and seem to be mostly a sham to allow personal use mostly for pleasure with the weak cover of relief from pain for some.

  9. esintheus says

    [From the Town Hall article] Due to, “known long term and serious side-effects of chronic marijuana use,” and the fact that we don’t fully, “know about the drug and its impacts on health,” we should not allow it to be sold legally.

    On the surface, that argument is not persuasive to me because it already applies to many products that are being sold. Also, if the unknown health consequences, and ill-defined known consequences, are your primary objections, I would expect the counter-argument to be, “let’s first test, experiment, and release a comprehensive analysis. Then see where we’re at.”

    The most effective rebuttal to Prop 19 is, “I don’t mind if they ease up on Marijuana laws, but if they’re going to loosen up that end, let’s tighten the grip on hard drug dealers at the same time.”

    I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure to have a wide variety of acquaintances since moving to California. If there’s one thing I can take away from the rise in Medical Marijuana stores, and easing of restrictions that’ll allow you to use those stores, is the dramatic decline in the circulation of hard drugs. The average California Marijuana user is no longer going to the neighborhood drug dealer, who has and exposes them to EVERYTHING, they’re going to a professional store that solely provides Marijuana.

    Hugh Hewitt to Nick: The prohibition of that which is already legal is a much more absurd choice than the decision to keep illegal that which already is.

    Agree, and retrospectively, the criminalization of it in the 1930s might have been one of those instances.

    Mary Griswold says: I can’t think of anything to be gained by making it legal.

    Increased Tax revenue
    Reduction in enforcement and prison costs
    Reduction in the availability of hard drugs
    …and of course…

    “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” – John Stuart Mill

    • Jody Steel says

      As a typical boomer, I smoked pot, and did other drugs & alcohol. Ended up in AA, sober 30+ years now. My brother did the same, especially loved pot, and never quit. The differences in our present circumstances are striking.

      How much of that is due to pot is impossible to estimate. From my perspective, drug use is dangerous.

      But we should have learned from Prohibition that making something illegal that people are absolutely going to do anyway is counterproductive. Risk of future health consequences may be valid, but it’s not a motivator – alchohol is risky, driving is risky, life is risky.

      Legalizing pot would have another couple of advantages:
      * disrupting activities & profits of street gangs & Mexican cartels
      * identifying people with addiction issues

      No, I don’t like the idea. Not sure how I’ll vote, I’m torn on this one.

      • esintheus says

        Exactly. MJB Wolf’s descriptions are spot on too. There is an endless list of lawful products/acts that have comparable physical side effects to marijuana, but a lot criticism is also concentrated on mental/psychological side of things. The list of lawful replacements is smaller, but it exists.

        It would be interesting to see the differences between the average kid who was under the influence of Marijuana for five hours a day, compared to an average kid who grew up with five hours a day of MTV/video games/etc. Setting aside the disgusting themes of most video games and MTV shows, the quick pans and two second cut screen are unleashing a horde of hyper-active jitterbugs who can’t think straight.

        Prager always says he would rather his kids smoked cigarettes than watch MTV, and while I agree with him, it’s only comparing physical harm to psychological harm. After hearing a few segments where he expressed his utter disgust of Marijuana, I tend to think he would prefer MTV, but it’s more of an appropriate comparison.

        I would prefer Prop 19 clamped down on hard drugs while loosening up on Marijuana, but I will probably vote for it. Of course, I’ll give Hugh and Dennis plenty of time to convince me otherwise.

  10. Chris Rowan says

    Have any of you pro-pot advocates bothered to read the FDA’s assessment of pot as medicine? (Inter-Agency Advisory Regarding Claims That Smoked Marijuana Is a Medicine –

    How about The DEA Position On Marijuana (

    I always knew that the REAL reason why so many college-age kids voted for Obama was because he admitted to smoking pot. With a fellow pot-smoker as POTUS, legalization would be a slam-dunk!

    As with anything leftist, marijuana legalization makes no sense at all. NONE. Arguing with a pro-pot advocate is pointless. They are not swayed by facts or studies or mountains of anecdotal evidence. But what really amazes me is how casually pro-pot advocates cast aside their accumulated knowledge of human nature and common sense. Their descent into mind-numbing self-delusion is truly remarkable.

    • esintheus says

      While I don’t advocate a federal movement towards legalization, states should be allowed to operate as “Laboratories of Democracy.” Not sure why the medical benefits of Marijuana, or lack thereof, are even apart of the discussion for Prop 19…it’s a non sequitur.

      I’ve talked to thousands of college aged kids since Obama’s election, not one has said they voted for him because he smoked Marijuana. My anecdotes versus yours, true, but I’m coming from California…. :/

      Chris Rowan says: “Marijuana legalization makes no sense at all.”

      In general, I’d have to agree…but for California in 2010, if that were true, you could easily address the bullets points that are posted right above your entry:

      * Increased Tax revenue
      * Reduction in enforcement and prison costs
      * Reduction in the availability of hard drugs
      * Disrupting activities & profits of street gangs & Mexican cartels
      * Identifying people with addiction issues
      * “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” – John Stuart Mill

  11. Bethany Beck says

    I suspect that the pro marijuana people are likely to be anti smoking supporters. If smoking is bad, how can smoking marijuana be good? What do we know about whether smoking marijuana causes lung cancer? What about “Second hand smoke”? Is this no longer an issue or only when it is about tobacco? I support legalizing marijuana only so long as people are permitted to smoke tobacco wherever and whenever they want. Put all smoking on equal footing.

    • esintheus says

      I would consider myself pro-Prop 19 if it included a crackdown on hard drugs/dealers, but since it doesn’t, I’m only slightly leaning towards voting for it, and would definitely not consider myself pro-Marijuana.

      Smoking cigarettes is bad and legal, and marijuana should be the same way. I despise Huckabee’s federal smoking ban proposal for the work place, and any smoking restrictions that are forced on private employers, apartments buildings, etc.

      To my knowledge, there are no noticeable discrepancies between cigarette smokers and marijuana smokers concerning lung cancer.