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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