Marijuana is Much Safer Than Alcohol, So Stop Asking

A man smoking marijuana

Smoking marijuana | Dan Callister/Liaison/Getty Images

Attitudes toward marijuana legalization are shifting. Many Americans, however, still believe the myths purporting the “dangers” of cannabis. Those beliefs are still being pandered to from certain public figures. Notably, guys like Trump’s Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions. And former Republican presidential candidate and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug,” Christie told radio host Hugh Hewitt last year, echoing a long-standing yet not-quite-accurate claim about cannabis. “We have an enormous addiction problem in this country. And we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.”

It’s a confounding stance for a conservative. After all, supporting continued federal prohibition openly clash with the ‘small government’ principles Republicans typically like. Though some Republicans have come around, Christie has remained steadfast in his opposition to marijuana legalization.

While Christie, and those who share his views are entitled to their opinions. But their claims are really losing potency. Consider, for example, that the federal government itself has even come forward with evidence of actual health benefits from cannabis use.

Dangers of marijuana?

Sen. Jeff Sessions, likely future Attorney General, delivers a speech

Sen. Jeff Sessions, likely future Attorney General, delivers a speech | Alex Wong/Getty Images

That’s really the point: Marijuana, on its own, is generally harmless. In fact, it’s magnitudes safer than other similar substances that are perfectly legal, including tobacco and alcohol.

In terms of toxicity, marijuana has been found to be up to 100 times less toxic than alcohol. A study, which did a risk assessment between cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco, found that cannabis is less dangerous than a cigarette. Two perfectly legal and widely available substances are scientifically proven to be far more dangerous than cannabis.  In spite of this, regulators continue to point at marijuana as being a serious health threat.

In terms of ingestion, marijuana is unlikely to cause much damage. Chronic or long-term use, however, may create some problems. But you’re still not immune from making bad decisions while under the influence.

For example, if you decide to ingest cannabis and get behind the wheel? That’s an irresponsible and dangerous choice; similar to drinking and driving. But if you drink 20 beers, you’re also probably going to suffer from alcohol poisoning — which can kill you.

If you were to try and smoke a pound of marijuana in one sitting? You’ll probably fall asleep before you get too far into the stash. Also, there isn’t one verifiable instance of someone being killed as a result of a THC overdose.

Cannabis: Toxicity is a low threat

Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse

Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Toxicity and THC overdoses should be the least of your concerns if you choose to ingest marijuana. It’s the peripheral things associated with it that actually make it worrisome. You could argue that by outlawing marijuana, we’ve made it far more dangerous than it would be otherwise. Dangers posed by traffickers, gangs, or even law enforcement overshadow any threats caused by toxicity.

As marijuana becomes freely available in licensed stores and controlled markets, however, these dangers dissipate. We can all but wipe out illegal trafficking when we remove the black market from the equation. The gangs and cartels associated with cannabis trafficking? They lose their economic power.

With legalization comes further study and data. And the evidence is mounting that marijuana is not inherently dangerous. We know that it can actually be beneficial under certain circumstances. The calls for continued federal prohibition from Sessions, Christie, and others are losing muster. We may yet find evidence that cannabis can indeed cause some sort of health issue, but right now? Claiming cannabis is just as, if not more dangerous than other legal substances doesn’t hold up.

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