I recently read a book titled “Marijuana is Safer So Why Are We Driving Ourselves To Drink” that compared marijuana use to the use of alcohol and tobacco. The book presents compelling evidence from multiple sources showing that marijuana is far safer than either of the legal recreational drugs currently sold in America.
For example The World Health Organization (WHO) in the mid-1990s commissioned a group of scientists to compare the health effects and societal consequences of cannabis use with that of other drugs including alcohol, nicotine and opiates. The researchers concluded: “Overall, most of these risks (associated with marijuana) are small to moderate in size. In aggregate they are unlikely to produce public health problems comparable in scale to those currently produced by alcohol and tobacco….. On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies” The WHO ultimately removed these findings in the 1997 final report, “Cannabis: A Health Perspective and Research Agenda” after allegedly receiving pressure from the United Sates which argued that such conclusions would undermine its criminal prohibition of marijuana.
A French study at the state medical research institute INSERM published a similar review in 1998. The researchers divided legal and illegal drugs into three categories from those that posed the most danger to society to the drugs with the least impact on society. Alcohol, heroin and cocaine were listed in the most dangerous category and tobacco and hallucinogens were categorized as having a moderate risk to society. Investigators determined that cannabis posed the least risk to public health among all the drugs studied.
A 1989 research advisory panel for the state of California reviewed the health effects of marijuana and alcohol. They concluded “An objective consideration of marijuana shows that it is responsible for less damage to the individual or society than alcohol and cigarettes”. The state’s attorney general refused to publicly release the report.
A 2002 special Canadian senate committee completed an exhaustive review of marijuana and health, finding that “scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue”. The senators concluded their report by asking that cannabis be legalized for consumers age 16 and older. This was ignored by the majority of Parliament.
IN 2007, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare hired a team of scientists to assess the impact of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on public health. “Alcohol harm was responsible for 3.2% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia,” they concluded “Of the 14 risk factors examined, alcohol was responsible for the greatest amount of burden in males under the age of 45” By comparison, cannabis use was responsible for zero deaths and only 0.2% of the estimated burden of disease and injury in Australia.
The same year a team of experts conducted a similar review for the British medical journal Lancet. They also concluded that alcohol posed a far greater health and safety risk than cannabis.
In 2008 a team of researchers for the British think tank the Beckley Foundation published a report assessing marijuana’s risk to health. They concluded “The public health impact of contemporary patterns of cannabis use are modest by comparison with those of other illicit drugs (such as the opioids) or with alcohol. In the former the case reflects the absence of fatal overdose risk from cannabis. In the latter case, it reflects the much lower risks of death from cannabis than alcohol-impaired driving, fewer adverse effects on health, lower rates of regular use to intoxication for cannabis than alcohol, and the lower rate of persistence of cannabis use into older adulthood”
An interesting note on this book is the forward that was written by Norm Stamper who was previously the Chief of police for the city of Seattle. “He had the habit of asking police officers from around the country two questions. First:” When’s the last time you had a fight with someone under the influence of marijuana? ( And by this I mean marijuana only , not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila. My colleagues pause; they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask, “When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk?” They look at their watches. It’s telling that the booze question is answered in terms of hours, not days or weeks.”
The book is a good read and offers far more information and sources that can be provided in this short article. It was written by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert. It is also telling that with the vast amount of information available claiming that marijuana is safer, not only for the individual user but also for society, than alcohol or tobacco our government steadfastly refuses to consider the evidence. Who are they protecting? Big Business? It’s certainly not the users of marijuana.
Call or write your Congressmen, Senators and President and ask them to legalize marijuana and remove this burden from our lives. We are not the enemy, We are Americans.