Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which is Harmful?

Mason Tvert, campaign director for Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), lists several reasons to support drug policy reform in this editorial in the Rocky Mountain News:

Alcohol is deadly; marijuana is not. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20,000 Americans die every year as the direct result of alcohol consumption. The number for marijuana is zero. In addition, alcohol overdose deaths are not just possible, but an all-too-frequent occurrence…

Iowa Guy weighs in with a similar theme (also in relation to Colorado’s Amendment 44):

Studies have repeatedly shown that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Thousands of people every year are killed, directly or indirectly, by alcohol abuse. Alcohol overdose kills hundreds. Spousal abuse is almost always linked to alcohol. Drunken driving is a huge problem.

On the other hand, there has never been a single death from marijuana overdose. Users do not become violent. Marijuana is not addictive.

Juliet Samuel writes a thoughtful op-ed in the Harvard Crimson on the inequities that come from punishing marijuana use by University students depending on the current political climate. Her piece prompts a letter to the editor by Robert Sharpe:

Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to have caused an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. The short-term health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records.

It’s just as true in Austin (where the University of Texas got its number one party school ranking by coming in first for hard liquor use and third for beer consumption) as it is everywhere else: much more trouble is caused by the use of alcohol than the use of marijuana. The trouble that marijuana “causes” in Travis County is entirely due to its criminalization, rather than to its actual consumption.

Update: Marijuana vs. Alcohol Deaths

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Comments (37) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Diana McManus - January 21, 2007 11:18 AM

Marijuana needs to be legalized and people should be allowed to grow it in their gardens. Marijuana is a medicinal plant and needs to be treated as such. There has been too MUCH GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA LIES and DECEIT when it comes to marijuana.

Isn't it about time that the GOVERNMENT admitted the truth about marijuana and let people enjoy smoking the plant without being prosecuted for it?

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Lucy - April 9, 2008 2:31 PM

um,ok look. marijuana is cool and awesom and all, but over time, you can die from lung cancer!!!!!! im doing this debate thing 4 school, and im trying to find out real facts not just shit trying to legalize pot. even though that's what wer debating for, legalizing drugs. but what we dont want is an F for having invalid information. haha its not like im a freak whon thinks weed is like a sin, my parents do it and a bunch of my friends do 2. so yea. hahaha bye

Rachel Wood - April 9, 2008 2:38 PM

i think that drugs should be legalized and that everybody can get high just not babies. did u no that the nazis like threw babies in the air and shot them and used them 4 targets? i no im like really cold im in the middle of a field hahahahaha jk i feel like im guna pukeeeeeee ahahahahaha blaaaaaaaa

rachel woodsz - April 9, 2008 2:39 PM

i think that drugs should be legalized and that everybody can get high just not babies. did u no that the nazis like threw babies in the air and shot them and used them 4 targets? i no im like really cold im in the middle of a field hahahahaha jk i feel like im guna pukeeeeeee ahahahahaha blaaaaaaaa

Rene - August 3, 2008 1:59 PM

Marijuana should be legalized, my family act like hippocrits. They hold a beer in their hand while talking about the evils of marijuana. When they dont even know the sightest info. on it.

Cynthia Randazzo - October 16, 2008 4:03 PM

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like you to know that my 19 y/o assistant searched for an article such as yours to vindicate her recent abuse of marjuana. She was arrested as well as her boy friend. This kids come from good families that are well off. Neither of them have a clue as to what they are doing or have done to their lives. She spent the afternoon at work arguing her point. Now thanks to your pathetic article, her little brain and more kids like her thinks that it's alright to smoke pot and that it being illegal is over rated!

I think you should do an article that stipulates that breaking that law is a crime and that it will eventually put you behind bars unless your mommy and daddy have a crap load of money!!

Enough said!

Kristina - November 8, 2008 2:37 PM

DEA says that why add a third drug to the list, it's on their website, that's why marijuana is illegal It is proven that tobacco and alcohol kill 100x more than weed! They have nothing on it, I say let the people vote and see who wants it to be legal!

Reena - December 2, 2008 2:28 PM

I'm doing research on the effects of marijuana vs. the effects of alcohol. And the effects of alcohol have all too well given itself the name to be more dangerous. We have made something legal that kills people every year, and on the other hand made a safe relaxing drug illegal.

wayne - December 30, 2008 9:51 AM

drug laws destroy millions of hard working men and woman everyday.Iwish there was somebody who could do something about it.

Vh - January 19, 2009 1:39 PM

Marijuana is so much better than alcohol ,... I wish it will be legal loooool

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bob - February 26, 2009 12:48 PM

this proves a great point!!

cynthia Rankin - March 16, 2009 11:08 AM

Just because people don't die from the use of marijuana doesn't mean there aren't traffic deaths that occur while use this substance. There is too much information of the harmful effects of marijuana to legalize it. Alcohol and cigarettes should be illegal too and if not should be taxed out of sight.

juggalo420 - March 16, 2009 5:02 PM

weed is the shit

Justin T. - April 17, 2009 2:02 AM

This was so eloquently put, it almost brought a tear to my eye.

What would the world do with more free-thinkers like yourself, Mr. Jamie? ;)

Keep it up... Keep us weird.

diana - April 23, 2009 11:43 AM


Skyler Skaggs - April 24, 2009 4:03 PM

we need to legalize this stuff

Nathan - May 6, 2009 10:41 AM

Is the actual damage from alcohol consumption more severe than the damage caused by smoking marijuana?

Andrew - May 15, 2009 10:51 AM

this info helped me alot. this was just what i needed for my reaserch paper.

does it matter - July 12, 2009 11:31 AM

everyone that i talk 2 that smoke says it is great every one that doesent says its bad what do you think

brandon ervin - April 6, 2010 12:18 PM

u got my vote to

brandon - April 19, 2010 12:11 PM

legalize marijuana goerge wasington used to smoke it so why cant us.

dave - July 24, 2010 3:04 PM

Don't you guys think it's funny that the MAJORITY of Americans think cannabis should be regulated legally. However, this isn't happening. It goes to show you who really runs the country, not "We" the people.

Eugene Erwin - July 27, 2010 12:27 PM

Marijuana truly is less harmful than alcohol, I have been smoking it for 41 years and enjoy great health. I never need a doctor and have never been sick except for the small illnesses that everyone gets.

tyler - September 21, 2010 8:49 PM

WTF!!! you ppl r dumb! marijuana might not be as bad, but always in the long term it is way worse,...pppl rnt addicted to it but they wanna do it everyday cuzz its "aweasoome" so yes it is an addiction.. and if weed was legallized you would have ppl high and driving more than drinking and driving!! smoking marijuana is aweful , no one should deserve to live if they smoke pot for along time

Mark - March 3, 2011 9:48 AM

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