Get the Facts
Source: Jack E. Henningfield, PhD for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Reported by Philip J. Hilts, New York Times, Aug. 2, 1994 "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use." Source: http://drugwarfacts.org/addictiv.htm
Marijuana is far less toxic than alcohol.
Alcohol is one of the most toxic drugs, and using just 10 times what one would use to get the desired effect can lead to death. Marijuana is one of – if not the – least toxic drugs, requiring thousands of times the dose one would use to get the desired effect to lead to death. This “thousands of times” is actually theoretical, since there has never been a recorded case of marijuana overdose. Source: The American Scientist (Magazine of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society). Gable, Robert. May-June 006. http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/num2/the-toxicity-of-recreational-drugs/1
There are hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths each year, yet there has never been a marijuana overdose death in history. The consumption of alcohol is also the direct cause of tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.
In 2001, there were 331 alcohol overdose deaths and 0 marijuana overdose deaths. Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Source: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5337a2.htm
Long-term marijuana use is far less harmful than long-term alcohol use.
Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is associated with multiple adverse health consequences, including liver cirrhosis, various cancers, unintentional injuries, and violence.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported 20,687 “alcohol-induced deaths” (excluding accidents and homicides) in 2003. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm
The CDC has no reports of “marijuana-induced deaths.” (In reality, there may be 2-5 deaths each year attributed to marijuana, but this article -- http://bbsnews.net/bw2005-02-01.html -- describes how these are actually deaths attributable to other causes but “blamed” on marijuana due to the way the data is collected.)
There is little evidence, however, that long-term cannabis use causes permanent cognitive impairment, nor is there is any clear cause and effect relationship to explain the psychosocial associations.
There are some physical health risks, particularly the possibility of damage to the airways in cannabis smokers. Overall, by comparison with other drugs used mainly for ‘recreational’ purposes, cannabis could be rated to be a relatively safe drug. Source: Iversen, Leslie. Current Opinion in Pharmacology. Volume 5, Issue 1, February 2005, Pages 69-72. Long-term effects of exposure to cannabis. University of Oxford, Department of Pharmacology.
The latest and most comprehensive research on marijuana has concluded that it does not contribute to the development of lung cancer. Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR200605...
There has never been a documented case of lung cancer in a marijuana-only smoker, and recent studies find that marijuana use is not associated with any type of cancer. The same cannot be said for alcohol, which has been found to contribute to a variety of long-term negative health effects, including cancers and cirrhosis of the liver.
Alcohol use contributes to the likelihood of domestic violence and sexual assault and marijuana use does not.
Of the psychoactive substances examined, among individuals who were chronic partner abusers, the use of alcohol and cocaine was associated with significant increases in the daily likelihood of male-to-female physical aggression; cannabis and opiates were not significantly associated with an increased likelihood of male partner violence.
…the odds of any male-to-female physical aggression were more than 8 times (11 times) higher on days when men drank than on days of no alcohol consumption. The odds of severe male-to-female physical aggression were more than 11 times (11 times) higher on days of men’s drinking than on days of no drinking. Moreover, in both samples, over 60% of all episodes occurred within 2 hours of drinking by the male partner. Source: Fals-Stewart , William, James Golden, Julie A. Schumacher. Journal of Addictive Behaviors. 28, pages 1555-1574. Intimate partner violence and substance use: A longitudinal day-to-day examination. Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Alcohol use contributes to aggressive behavior and acts of violence, whereas marijuana use reduces the likelihood of violent behavior.
Alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship.
Cannabis reduces likelihood of violence during intoxication… Source: Hoaken, Peter N.S., Sherry H. Stewart. Journal of Addictive Behaviors. 28, pages 1533-1554. Drugs of abuse and the elicitation of human aggressive behavior. Dept. of Psychology, University of Western Ontario. Dept. of of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University.
Alcohol use is highly associated with violent crime, whereas marijuana use is not.
About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking at the time of the offense.
Two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor.
Among spouse victims, 3 out of 4 incidents were reported to have involved an offender who had been drinking. Source: U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Crime Victimization Survey 2002.
Alcohol use is prevalent in cases of sexual assault and date rape on college campuses, whereas marijuana use is not considered a contributing factor in cases of sexual assault and date rape.
A Harvard School of Public Heath study found that 72 percent of college rapes occurred when the female was too intoxicated by alcohol to resist/consent. Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas/Documents/rapeintox-pressRelease/
Comparisons between alcohol and marijuana with respect to sexual assault are very difficult. This is because it does not appear as if marijuana is a significant contributing factor. The best way to "prove" this is through observation that many organizations dedicated to studying and educating about sexual assault do not list marijuana as a substance associated with incidents. Here is a good example from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: http://www.rainn.org/types-of-assault/sexual-assault/drug-facilitated-as...
Note their description of alcohol: "Alcohol is the most commonly used chemical in drug facilitated sexual assault. In large part this is due to the fact that alcohol is easily accessible and a chemical that many people use in social interactions." Given the fact that marijuana is also "easily accessible" and used widely in "social interactions," it is quite telling that marijuana is not even listed at all on this "Drug Facilitated Assault" page.
Another example: A Web site sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services lists alcohol, but not marijuana, as putting a person at risk for unwanted or risky sexual activity: http://www.4woman.gov/faq/rohypnol.htm#5
A wealth of scientific evidence has concluded that marijuana is a safe and effective medical treatment for individuals suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain, and other debilitating conditions, as well as their symptoms and the side effects often associated with their treatment (ex. chemotherapy).
According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, marijuana can reduce pain, nausea, muscle spasms, interocular pressure, and anxiety, and increase appetite; each of these applications have been deemed legitimate by at least one court, legislature, and/or government agency in the United States. Many patients also report that marijuana is useful for treating arthritis, migraine, menstrual cramps, alcohol and opiate addiction, and depression and other debilitating mood disorders.
Prescription drugs often produce far more serious side effects than marijuana, and in some cases patients who do not respond to prescription medications find relief from marijuana. For many, smoking or vaporizing marijuana has been found to be a more effective delivery methods than pills because it works instantly, the dosage can be better controlled, and -- because it cannot be vomited back up -- patients don't have the problem of "keeping it down."
Read the entire Institute of Medicine report, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," at http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6376
According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in April 2010, "[N]early three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they favor their state allowing the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes if it is prescribed by a doctor, while 23% are opposed." A national ABC News/Washington Post poll released in January 2010, found levels of support to be even higher, with 81% of Americans reporting that they "think doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes to treat their patients." Support spans age groups according to an AARP Magazine poll conducted in November 2004, which found that 72% of Americans aged 45 and older believe "adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes."
Since 1996, a majority of voters in Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state have approved ballot initiatives to remove criminal penalties for seriously ill people who consume, possess, and/or cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. Medical marijuana laws have also been adopted by state legislatures in Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Polls have shown that public approval of medical marijuana laws has increased since the laws went into effect.
In a 2003 Medscape poll conducted on WebMD, 76% of physicians, 86% of nurses, and 75% of pharmacists reported favoring "the decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes." The following members of the medical community have endorsed medical marijuana's effectiveness and policies that allow people to use it without fear of arrest and prosecution:
American College of Physicians • National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine • American Public Health Association • American Nurses Association • American Academy of HIV Medicine • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society • Lymphoma Foundation of America • American Medical Student Association • the state medical societies of New York, Rhode Island, and California • Scientific American
The following religious organizations have endorsed laws and policies that allow people to use marijuana for medical purposes:
United Methodist Church • Presbyterian Church • United Church of Christ • Episcopal Church Unitarian Universalist Association • Union of Reform Judaism • Progressive National Baptist Convention
The following publications have editorialized in support of laws and policies that allow people to use marijuana for medical purposes -- and doctors to recommend it -- without fear of criminal punishment:
The Economist • New York Times • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Washington Post • New York Daily News • Las Vegas Sun • Roanoke Times • Los Angeles Daily News • The Tennessean • Denver Post • Rocky Mountain News • Newark Star-Ledger• Los Angeles Times • New Haven Advocate • Providence Journal • Hartford Courant • Honolulu Star-Bulletin • Baltimore Sun • Daily Record • Reason Magazine • Many, many others...