Recreational Marijuana Legalization More Dangerous Than Alcohol? Statistics Deny Legal Weed Critics

The critics of recreational marijuana legalization have long claimed that legal weed could be more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, the main two Federally regulated substances that Americans consume for pleasure. But could it be that statistics from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the National Survey on Durg Use and Health, the Drug Abuse Warning Network, and the National Institute of Health actually disprove this idea?

In a related report by The Inquisitr, one thing being overlooked in the rush to legalize marijuana is that marijuana business opportunities are being limited to the already rich or big business. For example, in the state of Florida medical marijuana dispensaries are being limited to five established businesses that will be chosen at random in a lottery. But the minimum requirements for applying for a license are so high that small business owners would never be allowed to compete in the market.

Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, claims marijuana legalization in Colorado caused “an increase in car crashes, DUIs, and fatal slip-and-fall accidents.” The source for these statistics was not named, although Denver’s police claim marijuana and the crime rate cannot be correlated and instead say the improvement was due to a change in police tactics during that time frame.

Nora Volkow is the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and she claims that marijuana legalization could be more dangerous than already legal tobacco and alcohol:

“Look at the evidence. It’s not subtle — it’s huge. Legal drugs are the main problem that we have in our country as it relates to morbidity and mortality. By far. Many more people die of tobacco than all of the drugs together. Many more people die of alcohol than all of the illicit drugs together. And it’s not because they are more dangerous or addictive. Not at all — they are less dangerous. It’s because they are legal…. The legalization process generates a much greater exposure of people and hence of negative consequences that will emerge. And that’s why I always say, ‘Can we as a country afford to have a third legal drug? Can we?’ We know the costs already on health care, we know the costs on accidents, on lost productivity. I let the numbers speak for themselves.”

The last statement is fairly critical since the DEA does attempt to gather numbers on marijuana in relation to visits to a hospital emergency room. For example, The Washington Post notes that a ONDCP fact sheet “mentions of marijuana use in emergency room visits have risen 176 percent since 1994, surpassing those of heroin.” This sounds pretty bad on the face of it, but the statistics only become meaningful once you compare the number of ER visit in relation to the number of users.

The latest data from 2010 shows that for every 1,000 users, there are 940.19 heroin users that end up in the hospital. In comparison, it’s estimated there are 17.4 million marijuana users per month in America and 461,023 people ended up in a “substance-related E.R. visit” involving pot. This means there were 26.5 E.R. visits per 1,000 users, which suddenly makes the government’s quote sound far less threatening to our health. The reports also don’t say if the E.R. visits were directly caused by consuming marijuana or if the substance was merely detected in patients with other maladies, although we’ll assume the former option for this comparison.

While tobacco is not part of the report, alcohol was related to 35.2 E.R. visits per 1,000 users, making getting drunk 30 percent more dangerous in comparison to smoking weed. Even more alarming, prescription drug abusers were 75 percent more likely to require a visit to the hospital since they had 111.27 E.R. visits per 1,000 users.

Now there are two ways we could view this data. Marijuana critics will say this information proves marijuana legalization can be harmful to the overall well-being of the United States. Recreational marijuana legalization supporters could say it proves alcohol is more harmful. What do you think about the data?