Last week I submitted a letter expressing my distaste for the hypocrisy our society shows in its treatment of those who sell and use marijuana while it embraces and profits from a much more dangerous substance: alcohol.
In a comment to my letter posted to the online version of The Express, someone challenged me to quote statistics that back up my statements about marijuana. Since this person and most people in the general public seem unaware of the huge disparity between alcohol and marijuana in relation to direct and related deaths per year, please allow me to present some additional facts.
In 2005, MSNBC released an article quoting a government study published by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing a relation to alcohol and a staggering 75,000 deaths per year. These statistics combine direct and related deaths where alcohol could be attributed as a significant factor.
The article goes on to state that excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable deaths every year behind tobacco and poor eating and exercise habits.
Finding statistics on marijuana-related deaths is not as simple as finding stories like the one mentioned above, however, on ProCon.org I found some FDA statistics they had requested from the government over an eight-year period starting immediately after the passage of the medical marijuana bill in California from 1997 to 2005.
In this data there are 279 deaths with marijuana listed as a "suspect" secondary cause. The total amount of deaths directly attributed to marijuana by the FDA over this eight-year period was a big, fat zero (remember, this is after the passage of medical marijuana laws).
To be fair, this does not account for any traffic-related deaths related to marijuana. We must look elsewhere for this data, and we can find it in a recent study performed by D. Mark Anderson, a Montana State University economics professor, and Daniel Rees, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver.
In their study they found states that had passed medical marijuana legislation actually saw a visible decrease in traffic-related deaths at an average rate of 9 percent. Applying this data, we can see that marijuana is at the very least not a contributing factor in traffic-related deaths, and according to this study, it may actually be partly responsible for a decrease in traffic-related deaths where it has been legalized for medical use.
In summation, combining this information and looking at it in comparison with studies on alcohol we find a huge disparity between fact-based research and the reality of our justice system. When you go on to consider how many people have spent or are currently spending time behind bars for non-violent drug offenses related to marijuana, or how much tax money we waste every year funding the investigations, prosecutions and incarcerations of marijuana sellers and users, it should invoke outrage.