Here are some of the more common objections and arguments raised against the legalization and use of marijuana and a reasonable response.
Marijuana is a dangerous drug.
Marijuana has been used by millions of people for at least 8000 years. There is not a single recorded case of anyone dying from an overdose. In fact, researchers have formulated what they believe to be a fatal upper limit and you would have to smoke approximately 15,000 joints in an hour to inject this amount. Basically, you would pass out from lack of oxygen long before you could do die from an overdose.
Marijuana is a gateway drug that leads people to move on to harder, more dangerous drugs.
This often raised objection seems reasonable because most people who use LSD, cocaine, heroin, crack, meth, etc. also smoke, or used to smoke marijuana. But this is not evidence for cause and effect. Most also drank alcohol, smoked tobacco, and ate pizza. The fact is, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that marijuana induces one to move on to harder drugs.
But there is a connection. In the same way that alcohol prohibition created the black market and gangs, the high demand for marijuana and its prohibition by the federal government and most states has created a thriving underground distribution system. Many drug deals don’t deal only in marijuana – they often peddle a variety of other illegal drugs. They have a financial incentive to introduce their marijuana customers to their other, more dangerous wares. Simple logic would leave one to conclude that this is the reason why hard-core drug users started with marijuana.
The solution is simple. A system of regulation and taxation with legal dispensaries rather than prohibition would prevent untold numbers of people from ever trying those harder, dangerous drugs (so long as those taxes are not prohibitively high, that is).
Marijuana causes brain damage.
Ronald Reagan famously stated, “the most reliable scientific sources say permanent brain damage is one of the inevitable results of the use of marijuana.” His “reliable scientific sources” were simply wrong. Here’s the story behind this infamous study.
False Monkey Study
Dr. Robert G. Heath was a researcher at Tulane University in New Orleans when he reported the findings of an experiment that apparently proved a connection between marijuana use and brain damage. Dr. Heath had conducted the study on rhesus monkeys by exposing them to an equivalent of 30 marijuana joints per day. After 90 days, the monkeys began to waste and die. When they were later autopsied, Dr. Heath reported significant brain damage in the monkeys that had been exposed to cannabis.
Despite strong support from the federal government, the study was heavily criticized for inaccurate procedures upon its release. Critics suggested that suffocation may have been the actual cause of brain damage instead of marijuana itself.
The findings were challenged and ultimately dismissed by a pair of larger, better-controlled studies – one by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research and the other by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International – that attempted to replicate Dr. Heath’s results without success. The studies showed no change in the brain structure of monkeys that were given daily doses of marijuana for up to one year.
Marijuana is a drug without therapeutic value.
Proposals to make marijuana legally available as a medicine are often countered with claims that safer, more effective drugs are available, including a synthetic version of delta-9-THC, which is marijuana’s primary active ingredient which is responsible for the “high” that recreational users seek.
Despite the federal government’s stubborn insistence that marijuana has no medicinal value, nothing could be further from the truth.
A study of history reveals that cannabis has been used for thousands of years as a treatment for a wide variety of medical issues. It only became illegal in the US and other nations in the 1930s, and this was not because of it’s medicinal value, but because of it’s industrial value. This law was passed despite the objection of the AMA, who argued before congress that cannabis was a very common and useful medicine. We encourage you to watch some of the many documentaries we have on this site that document the powerful medicinal value of cannabis and the human endocannabinoid system.
Marijuana makes you a dangerous driver and is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents.
The negative impact of alcohol on driving safety is well documented. Marijuana’s opponents claim that like alcohol, cannabis use causes significant impairment and that any significant increase in use will ultimately lead to increased driving accidents and fatalities.
In high doses, marijuana very likely causes some driving impairment in many people. However, there is no evidence that marijuana, in what would be considered normal consumption levels, contributes in any substantial way to the frequency of automobile accidents in America.
There have been a number of studies that have searched for evidence of drugs in the blood or urine of drivers involved in fatal vehicular crashes. All of these studies found alcohol to be present in at least 50% of these accidents. However, marijuana has been found much less often. Furthermore, in the majority of cases where marijuana has been detected, alcohol has been detected as well.
For example, a more recent study sponsored by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) involving the analysis of almost 2000 fatal accident cases, found that 6.7 % of drivers tested positive for marijuana. In more than two-thirds of those, alcohol was also present, and may have been the primary contributor to the fatal outcome.
Further, a number of driving simulator studies have demonstrated that marijuana does not produce the kind of psycho-motor impairment that is commonly evident with even modest doses of alcohol. In fact, in a recent NHTSA study, the only statistically significant outcome associated with marijuana was that drivers drove more slowly.
Another recent study of actual driving ability under the influence of cannabis – employing the same protocol used to test the impairment-potential of medicinal drugs – evaluated the impact of placebo and three active THC doses in three driving trials, including one in high-density urban traffic.
As expected, dose-related impairment was observed in drivers’ ability to maintain steady lateral position. However, even with the highest dose of THC, impairment was still relatively minor and comparable to that with blood-alcohol concentrations of between .03 and .07 % and many legal medications. Drivers under the influence of marijuana also tended to decrease their speed and approach other cars more cautiously.
While recognizing some limitations of this study, the authors concluded that “THC is not a profoundly impairing drug.”