President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general made serious waves during her confirmation hearing on Jan. 28. Despite statistics and data to the contrary, Loretta Lynch stated “alcohol is safer than marijuana.”
Butting Heads with the President?
President Obama told the New Yorker in January 2014 that, while he didn’t condone marijuana use, he saw pot “as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
However, Lynch made it clear that she didn’t agree with the President’s stance on the legalization of marijuana or the dangers it potentially poses.
“I think the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion, neither of which I’m able to share,” she said. “But I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support legalization, nor would it be the position should I be confirmed as attorney general.”
Those who say alcohol is more dangerous than pot are able to do so with certainty, as they have tangible evidence to argue those points. Much of the research surrounding the safety of marijuana, however, is still in its infancy.
Approximately 17.6 million adults, or 8 percent of all U.S. adults, suffer from alcohol dependence, according to the NIAAA, while the National Transportation Safety Board reports that one death and 20 injuries occur every hour as a result of drunk drivers.
The Dangers are Real
Despite personal views, alcohol and marijuana are both addictive substances that pose their own unique dangers.
Alcohol can also be a catalyst for several types of cancer, liver disease and neurological problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 88,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol use, while deaths from marijuana use appear to be isolated incidents. In many cases, fatalities are caused by pot that has been “laced” with other substances.
That doesn’t mean marijuana use is safe, though. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 9 percent of those who use marijuana will become addicted. The British Medical Journal also notes that those who use marijuana within three hours of driving are twice as likely to be in a car crash, when compared to sober drivers.
The long-term effects of marijuana are also well-documented and include an increased chance of developing schizophrenia – particularly with those who have a family history of the disorder. Despite the documented danger, many medical professionals are still hesitant to classify pot more dangerous than alcohol.
“There is clear evidence that in some people, marijuana use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety and nausea,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “Even considering this, it is hard to make a case that it has a high potential for abuse. The physical symptoms of marijuana addiction are nothing like those of the other drugs I’ve mentioned.”
Additional Reading: Alcohol Poisoning Deaths are Occurring at an Alarming Rate
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