The New York Times has a truly excellent piece on the risks of marijuana use - and the risks are low, very low, relative to those posed by other drugs including alcohol and tobacco. Here are some summary passages but the article should be a required read for its complete coverage of what science says about various questions. (Oops - science? That will scare off our policy makers.) Also, note that this is one of a series of analytical pieces on consequences of "repeal prohibition, again" - or continuing to jail people for use of a relatively harmless substance. Big hat-tip to NYT for its journalism.
For Michele Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, there is no difference between the health effects of marijuana and those of any other illegal drug. “All illegal drugs are bad for people,” she told Congress in 2012, refusing to say whether crack, methamphetamines or prescription painkillers are more addictive or physically harmful than marijuana.
Her testimony neatly illustrates the vast gap between antiquated federal law enforcement policies and the clear consensus of science that marijuana is far less harmful to human health than most other banned drugs and is less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana cannot lead to a fatal overdose. There is little evidence that it causes cancer. Its addictive properties, while present, are low, and the myth that it leads users to more powerful drugs has long since been disproved.
For example, here are some percentages of the general population who tried various substances and became dependent.
|Substance||Percent tried||Percent dependent|
Faced with facts, it is hard to argue against legalization.
The Times series is a recommended read.