Alcohol VS. Marijuana: Which is the More Dangerous Drug?

A 2006 study conducted with over 2000 participants by UCLA into the effects on cannabis smoking in the long term have resulted in surprising findings - that marijuana smoking alone does not increase the risk of developing lung cancer. This finding surprised even the researchers, who found that marijuana smoke did contain known carcinogens.

One hypothesis for this result is that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) has anti-tumor properties and promotes the destruction of cancer-causing cells prematurely so they cannot produce cancer.

Many anti-marijuana advocates say that marijuana causes lung cancer and this is one main scare tactic to prevent its use. With a major university backed study pointing the facts in the opposite direction, many feel that opinions on marijuana usage are changing.

Marijuana was essentially outlawed in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act. The head of the American Medical Association at the time, Dr. William Woodward, objected to the bill, stating that “the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of this country." Doctors of the time prescribed marijuana for chronic pain, as well as many similar illness’s treated by today’s medical marijuana programs.

The Tax Act has also been seen as an attempt by the timber and chemical fiber industries(Du Pont and its nylon product) to reduce losses due to the stronger and easier to produce hemp fiber. The main supporter of the Tax Act, head of the Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger, has been attributed to many racist, anti-marijuana quotes, including reportedly saying that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

This 1937 act was challenged for its constitutionality as the tax stamps could only be purchased through self incrimination. The act was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which fully criminalized marijuana.

Recently, marijuana enforcement hit Socorro on a large scale with the June bust of an estimated 1 million dollar growing operation. Socorro police detective Rocky Fernandes was quoted "Is pot my biggest problem in Socorro? No, alcohol is. But it's still illegal. If or when that changes, it'll be another story, but in the meantime, I'm going to do my job."

Many studies on the long term effects of alcohol which show health benefits refer to moderate usage of alcohol as the key to obtaining positive results. However, studies show that even moderate alcohol drinking is associated in the long term with liver cancer, liver disease, and hypertension.

What is to be made out of the scientific results on the long term effects of marijuana and alcohol? The legality and perception of a substance is rarely based on scientific evidence. The figure shown is from a study which asked experts in addiction psychiatry to rate the addiction of the drugs, as well as experts in the pharmacology of these drugs to rate their harm. Cannabis scores lower in both addiction and harm than the legal drugs alcohol and tobacco.