While its stance isn't surprising, the National Institute on Drug Abuse defied all common knowledge, logic and science earlier this week by contending that alcohol and marijuana are equally toxic. The NIDA position is an indirect response to the Marijuana Policy Project's message that marijuana is a much safer recreational choice than alcohol. It seems that PolitiFact, a political watchdog operation, took issue with MPP's stunt last month outside of a NASCAR race, where the group promoted marijuana as a safer alternative.
After researching MPP's claim that marijuana is safer, however, even PolitiFact concluded that the statement is "mostly true." For example, there are more than 41,000 deaths involving alcohol consumption annually, while marijuana has yet to kill anyone (ever). PolitiFact also noted that several doctors polled said the term "toxic" is too vague, and that cannabis use can still "create unsafe situations."
But as for how deadly the substance is to an individual, PolitiFact admitted that the plant is "100 times less toxic" on several important levels -- notably when it comes to deaths and hospital visits. And the only point cited by the group for the qualifier of "mostly" true was that no real long-term health studies have been conducted on cannabis due to its illegality.
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PolitiFact's position apparently upset someone at NIDA, which fired back with this on Monday. "Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual," NIDA officials wrote to the Huffington Post.
That argument is absurd to Mason Tvert, spokesman for MPP, founder of Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and author of the book Marijuana Is Safer.
"Basically, what they said is that marijuana can be as toxic as alcohol, which is ludicrous," Tvert maintains. "Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is infinitely less toxic than alcohol. To tell the public that marijuana is as toxic as alcohol is grossly negligent. It is conveying false information that can have an impact on people's health and safety. All people should be aware of the fact that marijuana is far less toxic, and unlike alcohol, it does not contribute to overdose deaths and serious long-term health problems."
More from our Marijuana archive circa January: "Marijuana: Mason Tvert says limiting pot sales to Colorado residents would be unconstitutional."