Is marijuana worse for society than alcohol?
- As of November 2020, marijuana is legal in 11 states for adults 21+ years and legal for medical use in 33 states.
- Down from 52% of all drug arrests in 2010, marijuana arrests have decreased in the last decade and are now at their lowest level in 20 years.
- According to Healthline, the majority of health experts agree that marijuana is unlikely to cause death, although drug use can influence the user to become “delusional and impaired in terms of judgment.”
- The Federal Uniform Drinking Act of 1984 established the drinking age as 21 in most states, although there are some exceptions.
- Alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the US every year, totally up to 261 deaths a day.
Despite the positive research surrounding marijuana, the normalization of the drug in American society poses greater challenges than alcohol for the social, mental, and physical impacts that it has on society. As opposed to the understanding society has about alcohol, the variability and mystery of the effects of marijuana makes it more dangerous than alcohol. The mental and physical impacts marijuana has are comparable, if not worse, than alcohol. A study by Psychiatry Online reveals that marijuana has more significant long-term cognitive effects than alcohol. This includes but is not limited to comprehension, thought-process, and reaction time. Another aspect of the drug, which makes it more of a threat than alcohol, is the fact that it depletes ones’ memory. A JAMA Psychiatry study shows marijuana users have weaker memory retention than drinkers. In a separate analysis done by the UK Council for International Student Affairs, experts correlated marijuana usage to Amotivational Syndrome, in the way that pot makes one aimless and unambitious. From the CDC data that experts update each year, only around 10% of excessive drinkers are dependent. However, compared to the 30% of marijuana users who qualify for CUD (Cannabis Use Disorder), it is apparent that alcohol is less threatening to users. From a societal aspect, marijuana is linked to danger, rebellion, stigma, and even drug-addiction, while alcohol is linked to being harmless, classy, or social. This is not the fault of the respective drugs themselves, but an additional factor that must be taken into account when comparing the two.
For millennia, marijuana has been used medicinally in a myriad of ways. Its therapeutic effects have the potential to “ease the suffering of millions with various illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, MS, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, chronic pain, and other maladies.” Marijuana possesses beneficial compounds and has anti-cancerous effects, whereas chronic drinking can lead to severe health conditions, including cancer. Medical marijuana has even had “a small but statistically significant [reduced associative] effect on total crime, larceny-theft, property crime, and drunken arrests.”
Chronic use of alcohol comes with more severe risks than cannabis consumption at comparable rates. Recent findings surrounding long-term effects of drinking on white matter and gray matter in the brain have scientists believing alcohol consumption is likely “much more harmful to brain health” than marijuana use, which showed “no significant long-term effects on brain structure.”
Alcohol causes aggression and is linked to violence. The World Health Organization stated the association between aggressive behavior and alcohol is stronger than any with all other substances. Aggression is neither precipitated nor instigated by marijuana use. The adverse effects of alcohol extend beyond the individual, negatively impacting their environments, peers, and society as a whole. Alcohol raises risks of accident or injury, and expends costly resources for criminal justice, social institutions, and medical care. Consumption of alcohol is commonly linked to behaving irrationally and creating harmful external effects: “growth of crime rates, traffic, occupational, and home accidents, fires,” leading numerous countries with high alcohol consumption rates to institute specific measures to combat the clear negative societal impact.