Ganja is safer than alcohol, researchers say – Christopher Ingraham

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, allowed legalization to begin over the opposition of federal lawmakers, who have constitutional sway over the city.

Christopher Ingraham“Weed is roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users. … When it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug ‘suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.'” – Christopher Ingraham

Bhang shop in RajastanCompared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.

These findings reinforce drug-safety rankings developed 10 years ago under a slightly different methodology. So in that respect, the study is more of a reaffirmation of previous findings than anything else. But given the current national and international debates over the legal status of marijuana and the risks associated with its use, the study arrives at a good time.

Naga smokes ganja after bath at SanghamIt’s important to note here that “safer than alcohol” doesn’t mean “safe, full stop.” Indeed, one of the more troubling lines of thought I see in some quarters of the marijuana legalization movement is that because marijuana is “natural,” or because it can be used as (non-FDA approved) “medicine, ” it is therefore “safe.”

But of course, rattlesnake venom is natural, too, and nobody would call that safe. And prescription painkillers are medicinal and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

Ganja Facts ChartThere are any number of risks associated with marijuana use. Most of these risks involve mental health issues, and most increase the earlier you start using and the more frequently you use.

That said, there are risks associated with literally anything you put in your body. Eat too much sugar and you’re on the fast track to rotting teeth and diabetes. Take in too much salt and you’re looking at increased odds of a stroke. Psychoactive substances, such as marijuana and alcohol, aren’t at all unique for having risks associated with them.

What is unique is how these substances are treated under the law, and particularly the way in which alcohol and nicotine essentially get a free pass under the Controlled Substances Act, the cornerstone of the nation’s drug policy. This study’s authors note that legislative classifications of psychoactive drugs often “lack a scientific basis,” and their findings are confirmation of this fact.

Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend “risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs.” And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with Marijuana Regulationthe drug “suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”

In other words, individuals and organizations up in arms over marijuana legalization could have a greater effect on the health and well-being of this country by shifting their attention to alcohol and cigarettes. It takes extraordinary chutzpah to rail against the dangers of marijuana use by day and then go home to unwind with a glass of far more lethal stuff in the evening. – The Washington Post, 23 February

» Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

15 Things You Should Know About Marijuana

4 Responses

  1. In India most politicians are involved in liquor(legal&illicit) and tobacco business or are payed by their lobbyists..Therefore there is tremendous disincentive for political class to legalise cannabis even though the plant has many uses and the ganja/charas derived from it is harmless.
    Cannabis legalisation may adversely affect the tobacco/liqour barons hence they’ll never legalise it especially in corrupt country like India where public opinion/interest is thrown to the wind by corrupt law-makers

  2. Cannabis was included in the Indian Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Drugs Act in 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister and followed much pressure from Western countries through the UN and other insttutions. Later a lawyer remarked that an offender under this law would be eligible to get bail if he were to murder the policeman who comes to catch him and evade the former offence. This just shows what a joke our laws have come to be. Now that most western countries have decriminalised cannabis and relaxed laws, it is up to them to once again pressurise slave countries like India to revise laws once again.

    The history of the international case against cannabis/marijuana is itself demonstrative of the evolution of the prevailing irrational worldview. Finding the newly converted German folks still carrying on with their pagan practices, in which cannabis and other herbs were used, Pope Innocent VIII issued a ban on cannabis medicines and labelled it an “unholy sacrament” in 1484. Needless to say, the pope also promoted wine (alcohol) as the “holy sacrament”, which has now been scientifically proved to be 114 times more dangerous than cannabis.

    In fact, cannabis is (medically) safer than aspirin and paracetamol, the most commonly used OTC products.

    • Indian law for drug possession is draconian. A foreign tourist found to be in possession of ganja or charas will get ten years in prison without parole. An Indian national gets less time with the probability of early parole. So the law is racist as well as being grossly unjust. And this in a country where ganja smoking is very much part of village culture in northern and central India.

      The law for ganja and charas possession must be changed or abrogated. When bhang is legal and sold in government shops in UP, Rajastan, Bihar, and Odisha, there is no reason why ganja and charas can’t be sold in the same shops with the government enjoying the proceeds.

      In Tamil Nadu with its drinking problem and resultant violence and wife abuse in the towns and villages, the state government may consider turning TASMAC shops into ganja shops with positive results.

  3. Our obsolete colonial-era drug laws have to be abandoned or reformed. Some of them are absurd and some excessive! They give a big stick to crooked policemen to beat innocents with. But will reform ever happen? It is so easy to let whatever laws exist be rather than go through the laborious process of changing them.

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