Soldier against the drug war

Stephen Frye

Photo By dennis myers

We Really Lost This War! Twenty-five Reasons to Legalize Drugs 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.