Marijuana really is safer than alcohol or tobacco in almost all categories. In fact in my opinion marijuana is the safest recreational drug available anywhere. While I do not consider marijuana to be benign, I do believe it is safe to use casually. As with any drug, marijuana should be used in moderation and with caution. Driving or operating machinery should be avoided until a person knows how they are going to react under the influence of marijuana. I would not recommend smoking anything to anyone with respiratory problems although some studys claim marijuana may be beneficial for asthma. I would not recommend marijuana to anyone with psychological problems either.
Just because a substance alters our consciousness is not enough reason to say it is bad or harmful. And just because people use mind altering substances is not in itself irresponsible behavior.
People have been using alcohol for thousands of years, medicinally and for recreation as well, and yet it is tolerated by society to a large degree. While some people abuse alcohol and some are even driven to violence under its use, we as a society have chosen to live with those problems to retain the right to celebrate life with alcohol. It is the catalyst for social interaction for many, just a way to relax after a hard day for many more, it is used for celebration and to drown sorrow. For some it is also a sacrament. Whatever reason we choose to use alcohol, if it is used in moderation and responsibly, it is usually not a problem for the user or society. The same is true for marijuana. People use marijuana as a social catalyst, to relax and to celebrate and for the most part it causes no problems for the user or society.
The high feeling people get with alcohol and marijuana are very similar in that they often feel similar. But the medical or health effects are very different. Alcohol has a diminishing effect on our reaction and coordination, that is why people who overindulged often stumble and fall or slur their speech. When we drink alcohol our bodies process it in our livers where alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde which is carcinogenic and toxic. Our livers then convert acetaldehyde into acetate which is harmless at the rate of about 1 drink per hour. If we drink to fast or too much the liver gets behind and acetalehyde builds up in our system and causes damage. Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant and can shut down the areas of the brian responsible for consciousness and breathing, making passing out and asphyxiation possible. This also makes it possible to overdose and die from excessive consumption. While this is uncommon even among binge drinkers, it does happen. The amount of alcohol needed for a lethal dose could easily be held in one hand. Marijuana on the other hand is not a central nervous system depressant and has no known lethal dose. It might make you pass out if used in excess but you would likely awaken latter feeling fine. Marijuana does not seem to be toxic to humans and the danger of COPD and Cancer have been largely discounted by Dr. Donald Tashkin in a 30 year study of marijuana and tobacco use on pulmonary function at the University of California. A study which indicates marijuana may even have some curative effect on certain types of cancer and tumors. In the same study tobacco was found to increase the chances of cancer and COPD. Marijuana does effect motor skills like alcohol but to a much smaller degree. Marijuana also leaves its user with an acute awareness of this diminished motor control and most marijuana users compensate for this by being more careful and slowing down. While I would not recommend driving under the influence of either drug, people who use alcohol tend to think they can drive just as well and tend to drive faster when under the influence, while people who drive under the influence of marijuana are aware of diminished ability and tend to slow down and be more cautious.
From DRUGWARFACTS.org I found this information
Marijuana – Driving – 4-28-12
(marijuana – driving) “There is considerable evidence from laboratory studies that cannabis (marijuana) impairs reaction time, attention, tracking, hand-eye coordination, and concentration, although not all of these impairments were equally detected by all studies (Couper & Logan, 2004a; Heishman, Stitzer, & Yingling, 1989; Gieringer, 1988; Moskowitz, 1985). In reviewing the literature on marijuana, Smiley (1998) concluded that marijuana impairs performance in divided attention tasks (i.e., a poorer performance on subsidiary tasks). Jones et al. (2003) adds that Smiley’s finding is relevant to the multitasking essence of driving, in particular by making marijuana impaired drivers perhaps less able to handle unexpected events. Interestingly, there is also evidence showing that, unlike alcohol, marijuana enhances rather than mitigates the individual’s perception of impairment (Lamers & Ramaekers, 1999; Robbe & O’Hanlon, 1993; Perez-Reyes, Hicks, Bumberry, Jeffcoat, & Cook, 1988). Robbe and O’Hanlon (1993) reported that in laboratory conditions, drivers under the influence of marijuana were aware of their impairment, which led them to decrease speed, avoid passing other vehicles, and reduce other risk-taking behaviors. Such was not the case with alcohol; for the authors reported that alcohol-impaired drivers were generally not aware of impairment, and therefore did not adjust their driving accordingly.”
Lacey, John H.; Kelley-Baker, Tara; Furr-Holden, Debra; Voas, Robert B.; Romano, Eduardo; Ramirez, Anthony; Brainard, Katharine; Moore, Christine; Torres, Pedro; and Berning, Amy , “2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers,” Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (Calverton, MD: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, December 2009), p. 9.
(1999 – causes of death – marijuana safety) “Indeed, epidemiological data indicate that in the general population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality.”
Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), p. 109.
(1998 – causes of death – marijuana safety)
“3. The most obvious concern when dealing with drug safety is the possibility of lethal effects. Can the drug cause death?
“4. Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
“5. This is a remarkable statement. First, the record on marijuana encompasses 5,000 years of human experience. Second, marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.
“6. By contrast aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year.
“7. Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
“8. At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.
“9. In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.”
US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition” (Docket #86-22), September 6, 1988, p. 56-57.
I really do not want to leave readers with the idea that I believe using marijuana is harmless. Marijuana like any drug should be used in moderation and within age appropriate guidelines. Control the drug, don’t let it control you. When used to the point where it diminishes social interaction or in any way keeps you from meeting your obligations to yourself or others, I would call abuse, and marijuana like any drug can be abused. The key to legalizing marijuana, is accepting the responsibility.
Please call or write to your Congressmen, Senators and President and ask them to end the war against marijuana.