Fact Check: Marijuana is 100 Times Less Toxic than Alcohol

marijuana1Have you seen the marijuana ad that everybody was all excited and/or worked up about? It caused quite a stir. You know how everybody is always complaining about lack of truth in advertising? Well, guess who got it right?

A little background: the “New Beer” ad was produced, bought, and paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation’s largest pro-marijuana legalization advocacy group. The plan was to run the ad on a large television screen for fans to watch as they walked into the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.

In the spirit of beer advertising, although it was a spoof, it made some comparisons between alcohol and marijuana. Make no mistake, this ad was about having a good time. It highlighted the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol by depicting marijuana as a “new beer” with “no calories,” “no hangovers,” and “no violence” associated with its use. (MPP, 2013)

The ad was pulled within a few hours of its premiere. It did, however, make that premiere; and it generated quite a bit of discussion.

Even though it was shown outside the stadium, this was the first pro marijuana ad in a public venue at a major sporting event. Given the decades of anti-marijuana ads and outright lies and propaganda, this was most definitely a step in a very different direction for marijuana policy activists. Despite changes in laws across the country, I personally find it somewhat amusing that they got this far with the ad; Indiana state laws are strict and marijuana is not actually legal for medical or recreational use in Indiana.

Watch the ad for yourself (script follows):

If you’re an adult who enjoys a good beer, there’s a similar product you might want to know about, one without all the calories and serious health problems. Less toxic so it doesn’t cause hangovers or overdose deaths. And it’s not linked to violence or reckless behavior. Marijuana. Less harmful than alcohol and time to treat it that way. (YouTube; PolitiFact, 2013)

Needless to say, the Marijuana Policy Project got some flack when they ran this one. Given the ruckus surrounding the ad, PolitiFact took the statements and compared the facts as to whether marijuana was truly “less toxic” than alcohol. They examined data from a number of sources, and talked to several experts from both The Marijuana Policy Project and various anti-drug organizations. You can see the study results at PolitiFact Florida.

Activists on both sides of the issue cited studies to back up their claims. So PolitiFact went looking for numbers. The following statistics were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics:

There were 41,682 deaths attributed to alcohol in 2010, the last year with the most exact statistics. That breaks down to 15,990 deaths attributed to alcoholic liver disease and 25,692 other alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides. The center doesn’t have any reports of marijuana listed as a cause of death. (PolitiFact; Center for Disease Control)

It is of note that none of those who examined the data and looked at the statistics found a single death that was attributed to marijuana. That is old news; true for all the years for which there are records of marijuana having been used. Nonetheless, it is nice to see some new statistics to back things up.

Regarding the ad and comparisons between the dangers of alcohol verses those of marijuana, the PolitiFact review ruled in favor of science, statistics and marijuana:

  • Deaths or even trips to the hospital are much more likely due to alcohol;
  • Scientists could not find any documented deaths from smoking marijuana;
  • A study found the safety ratio for marijuana (the number of doses to cause death) is much greater than compared to alcohol. Put another way, marijuana is 100 times less toxic than alcohol. (PolitiFact Florida, 2013)

Regarding the claim of whether alcohol is more toxic than marijuana, PolitiFact stated, “We rate this claim Mostly True” (PolitiFact Florida, 2013). And actually, they have the statistics to prove it — marijuana really is 100 times less toxic than alcohol. The time for change at a national level is now

Regina Garson

Raised in the hill country of central Alabama, Regina Garson has degrees in Behavioral Science, Communications, and English. A long time writer, editor and activist, her career has involved both the social and the hard sciences. She has devoted her efforts to a number of causes including the War on Drugs, equality issues: race/diversity/women, labor and workplace issues, NASA, STEM education, and space development. She is founder and publisher of MagicStream.org, which is among the earliest self-help and wellness sites on the Internet. She also publishes a blog, where you can read more of her writing: Regina Garson's Blog. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaGarson, like her on Facebook, and read more of her articles in the archives.


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