Are you wondering why it took so long for Canada to legalize marijuana, when alcohol has been legal for so many years? Many people view smoking weed as a serious vice that leads to poor behavior, health issues, and even increased drug use.
But is all that really true?
Today we’re going to take a look at alcohol versus weed and see which one really is the worst indulgence, so that the next time you roll up a joint, eat your favorite edible, or ingest some tinctures, you don’t feel even a twinge of guilt.
Some Marijuana Background
For decades, people have been claiming that marijuana is so dangerous to people of all ages, that it should be kept illegal for the rest of time. In fact, in the United States, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 Substance – right up there with heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. This classification also means that marijuana has no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse.
Of course, you’re in Canada, not the United States. But this example goes to show just how far federal governments across the world will go to make sure people are terrified to smoke a joint.
These same political officials have even made it their mission to spread lies about the negative impact marijuana has on society and spend millions of dollars on ads and campaigns to discourage anyone from ever using weed. You know that stereotype that all marijuana users are lazy losers with nothing to contribute to the world? Well, the government is one place the general public gets these ideas from about those using cannabis.
Of course, we’re not going to tell you that marijuana is a harm-free substance. That would be ridiculous because all products have some element of harm in them, no matter how “healthy” they are for you. But what we are going to do is compare alcohol versus weed to show you that marijuana is not as dangerous as you might have been led to believe, especially when up against such a powerful substance as alcohol.
So, let’s take a look.
Alcohol versus Weed: Which is More Harmful?
According to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, nearly 80% of Canadians drink alcohol, even going so far as to say that alcohol is a socially accepted part of everyday life. Adding to that, it’s noted that Canadian society “condones, supports, and in some cases promotes drinking … associating alcohol with fun and sophistication.”
Can you disagree with these statements? Probably not.
But that’s not the bad part. Drinking alcohol every now and again with your friends and family, to celebrate a special occasion, or even relax after a long day at work is fine. The problem comes when you think about the fact that at least 3 million Canadians risk acute illness due to their drinking, that 4.5 million Canadians risk liver disease and cancer due to their drinking, and that approximately 3,000 Canadian babies are born each year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
And yet alcohol is a perfectly acceptable part of everyday life in Canada (and many other parts of the world).
Here are some more startling facts:
- From 2016-2017, 80,000 Canadians were admitted to the hospital for alcohol-linked conditions (e.g., alcohol poisoning, chronic alcohol abuse, liver disease, alcohol withdrawal, hepatitis, and liver failure)
- Alcohol is the second leading substance to cause harm in Canada (behind tobacco)
- There were 5,082 alcohol–attributable deaths in Canada in 2015, and the numbers continue to rise
So, What About Marijuana?
Okay, so we all know that despite being a legal substance, alcohol has the potential to be very dangerous when misused. Over-consumption and drinking and driving are not what people should be doing while under the influence of alcohol, but it happens.
So, what about marijuana? What kind of statistics are floating around about the dangers of using weed?
To start, the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) recently found that 851 (can you believe they made a type claiming the number to be 8,851?!) people died from cannabis in 2014. But the thing is, these were not overdoses that killed people. These deaths were only thought to be a result of lung cancer (638 deaths) or car accidents (213 deaths).
Adding to that, the CISUR derived these stats from a Swedish study (that has since been debunked) and applied the calculations to the population of cannabis users in Canada and made an “educated guess.” These deaths were not actually documented. Not to mention, many of the Swedish people that died from lung cancer and were labeled cannabis users also used tobacco, which is a substance proven to cause lung cancer. That invalidates this research immediately and makes you wonder just how many people really do die each year in Canada, or anywhere for that matter, from lung cancer strictly related to cannabis use.
And if you’re wondering about car deaths related to smoking weed, a 2017 study estimated that only 75 people died (not 213) in “cannabis-attributable” traffic collisions over the course of the year in Canada. And there was no information about whether other substances were involved or whether the persons were actually under the influence or just had traces of marijuana in their systems.
So sure, people do die while under the influence of cannabis. But the numbers are nowhere near the staggering 4 Canadians that die each day (a whopping 1,500 a year) due to alcohol-related collisions.
Still Not Convinced Alcohol Fares Worse than Marijuana?
The truth is, we could go on and on about why marijuana is not as dangerous as alcohol and how the legalization of weed in Canada took far too long.
But just in case you need a little more convincing, check out these facts:
- 80% of Canadians use alcohol, 15% of Canadians use cannabis (despite legalization)
- The majority of social costs of cannabis (94%) are related to enforcement (in other words stopping illegal dispensaries and punishing users) when compared to the health costs; alcohol social costs are split 50/50 when it comes to enforcement and health care
- Some studies claim that marijuana does not affect brain cells as we once thought it did, especially when compared to the damage alcohol does to the brain
- In the largest study of its kind, there was no link found between smoking marijuana and lung cancer; in fact, those who did smoke had lower incidences of cancer compared to non-users
- Alcohol’s addiction potential is far greater than that of marijuana
- An article published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors reports that “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” whereas “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.”
- Scientists believe that although a marijuana overdose is technically possible, it’s highly unlikely because you’d have to consume about 30% of your body weight before you overdosed (for some perspective, that means an 80kg person would have to eat about 24kg of weed)
In the end, marijuana is not without its problems. As with anything in life, moderation is the key. But the hype surrounding weed smokers, the health problems attributed to marijuana, and the social impact this so-called highly addictive drug has on the people has got to stop. And we think that Canada is on the right track. Though officials claim that legalizing marijuana in Canada is to stop the black market and protect the youth (both of which are noble causes), there’s probably more to it. And statistics like the ones mentioned above likely played a role in the move towards legalization.
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