Marijuana And Alcohol Compared
"By any of the major criteria of harm - mortality, morbidity, toxicity, addictiveness and relationship with crime - cannabis [marijuana] is less harmful than any of the other major illicit drugs, or than alcohol or tobacco."
-- Police Foundation [UK] report to the British government, March, 2000
Marijuana definitely can be abused, but that is no justification for institutionalizing hypocrisy and establishing a government protected monopoly for alcohol and tobacco.
Everyone gives lip service to the critical importance of education but few parents know the facts about marijuana and almost all drug education programs and public statements about marijuana mislead or exaggerate. The result for our children is to undermine accurate warnings and respect for authority.
The best way for the general public to have a reasonable sense of the dangers of marijuana - or any drug - is through comparison with alcohol, a comparison that politicians carefully avoid.
To test the rationality of how we react to marijuana use, we would do well to replace the word "marijuana" with the word "beer" or "wine" and see if the statement makes sense. Questions of legality aside, the beer or wine is probably more dangerous.
It is incredible that a society that routinely uses alcohol would punish those who prefer to use a demonstrably less dangerous drug.
* Marijuana is significantly less dangerous than alcohol. 
"Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol."
-- Canadian Senate's Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, September 2002
* Death 
Over 100,000 deaths each year in the U.S. are alcohol related, about 15,000 due to driving accidents. Marijuana deaths approximate zero in a long history.
* General health concerns 
Excessive alcohol use leads to organ damage and brain damage while there is no clear health danger from marijuana other than respiratory problems, usually small. Memory losses with alcohol are severe relative to marijuana.
* Impaired judgment 
Alcohol is considerably more intoxicating than marijuana. Moreover, one attribute of alcohol is to make the user less aware of impairment while marijuana actually produces an exaggerated sense of impairment, thus promoting caution as opposed to the reckless actions common with alcohol inebriation.
* Impaired performance 
"The person high on marihuana is not readily distinguishable from one who is not high."
- Dr. Andrew Weil, in The Natural Mind'
Alcohol is a disaster on the highway while marijuana use seems to pose a minimal threat to public safety unless it is combined in large doses with alcohol.
* Provocation of crime and violence 
Alcohol tends to provoke violent behavior in many users while marijuana tends to inhibit violent behavior. This is particularly important in the cases of date rape, spousal abuse and child abuse.
* Fetal damage 
Excessive alcohol use is by far the biggest risk for drug caused fetal damage. It is not clear that marijuana use presents a risk to the fetus but possible links to low birth weight indicate caution.
* Addiction 
Marijuana is much less addictive than alcohol and, if it occurs, dependency is normally easy to treat and mild by comparison.
* Gateway 
Marijuana is NOT a gateway due to any pharmacological effect. But making marijuana illegal creates a gateway of sorts, the reverse of our intentions.
Indeed, few marijuana users go on to become regular users of other illegal drugs and many consider it a gate stopper, not only for illegal drugs but for excessive use of alcohol.