Is marijuana no less dangerous than alcohol?

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In a recent interview -- President Barack Obama said he doesn't feel that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

Although the drug is still placed in the same category as drugs like ecstasy and heroin when it comes to federal law, some feel the drug isn't as socially unacceptable as it has been in the past.

"As the President said, it can be a vice, it's a bad habit, it's a weakness of character, but is it something that we need to have in the criminal justice system? I don't think so," said Amber Langston, who is on the board of directors of Show-Me-Cannabis, a group pushing for the legalization of marijuana in Missouri.

"Now is it totally benign? Probably not, it's a drug, every drug affects everyone differently," Langston added.

She says she agrees with the President's comment that in terms of its impact on the individual consumer, pot is less dangerous than alcohol.

"There are lots of things that adults can do responsibly, and they should have the choice to do that responsibly," she said.

But marijuana still has many critics, and Marla Looper, who works as a drug and alcohol counselor, says the President's message is confusing for children.

"To think that one is better than the other is not good for our kids," said Looper. "For those that are not addicted, or are not carrying the addictive gene, marijuana probably isn't harmful. But for those who have that underlying addictive quality, it would be quite easy to go to crack, meth, whatever it may be."

Looper says she deals with people with drug and alcohol addiction daily.

"For us to think that marijuana is not really as harmful as something else, well, what about that one kid who does get into a car accident because he's smoking pot," Looper added.

"The fact that some people may end up abusing it, is not a reason for us to continue to use this failed policy of prohibition," said Langston.

Langston feels the government should be focusing on making laws that treat users fairly. Looper, on the other hand, says legalizing marijuana could lead to other things.

"It's a gateway," said Looper, "I'm meeting clients that are dependent on marijuana, but they're also dependent on sleeping pills, they drink a lot, they're doing cocaine."

Langston says that the stigma behind marijuana's gateway drug status isn't supported statistically.

"While it may be true that people used cannabis earlier than they might use other substances, the facts don't weigh out that people who use it tend to go to those other substances," said Langston.

Looper says that if marijuana becomes more widely accepted, abuse statistics may change.

"Alcohol is the number one, and the most socially accepted, so if marijuana becomes socially accepted, those statistics may change a little bit," Looper said.

When it comes to federal law, marijuana remains a schedule-1 controlled substance. The designation means it's a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use. The White House also says President Obama does not support changing that status.

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  • Blake Harris

    Great example of Obama speaking out of both sides of his mouth, also known as double speak. On one side it’s no less dangerous than alcohol but on the other side, hell no we aren’t going to take it off the schedule one list. Personally I think this is his first step… to banning alcohol..

  • skepticalsinner

    Marla Looper helpfully proves a point for the legalization and regulation of Marijuana. The only gateway MJ provides to other illicit drugs is through having to obtain it illegally. That dealer has no issue hooking you up with other drugs. The same wouldn’t happen with a Colorado or Washington state dispensary. In addition, statistics have shown it is easier for kids to get hold of MJ than alcohol – because dealers don’t ID. Legalize it and it will be as hard to get hold of as alcohol.

    Don’t get me wrong – I believe it can be habit forming – especially to those with addictive personalities.

    But to continue prohibition of a substance that can be grown anywhere (hence “Weed”) based on all of the data that has been gleaned since “Reefer Madness”, and to continue to label this plant as a Class 1 controlled substance is beyond asinine. We continue to put money in the pockets of the Mexican drug cartels, while we spend tax dollars to play whack-a-mole with the dealers, and tax dollars to house the poor fools who get caught with weed.

    Legalize, Tax and Regulate it like alcohol. Use the tax dollars to fund drug-education, drug-treatment and drug-rehabilitation – it’s a no-brainer… anyone who can’t see that HAS to be stoned…

  • William Goit

    It is not as toxic as alcohol, it is basically non-toxic. Alcohol is the major gateway drug…believe it. Who is Marla Looper? Very unscientific and poorly written article. She obviously uneducated or else she would have proudly displayed an alphabet soup of authority after her name. This kind of article makes the point for legalizing this herb.

  • Dr. Howard McFarland LCP AR?BC

    As a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. I feel that they are both wrong to do. I remember when Prohibition was lifted and Alcohol became Legal, instead of combating the problem we made it Legal & look how much it has destroyed America because of people abusing it. I feel like it we legalize marijuana or any other drugs we are opening the door for people to abuse Drugs & cause more problems with our Society.

  • PCL

    “It’s a gateway,” said Looper, “I’m meeting clients that are dependent on marijuana, but they’re also dependent on sleeping pills, they drink a lot, they’re doing cocaine.”

    So, does this person have any reason to believe that the marijuana somehow caused these clients to take sleeping pills, alcohol and cocaine? Or is she assuming that simply because pot is illegal. There are some people who are just naturally prone to addictions, so if making pot illegal actually kept them from using it (it obviously doesn’t), they’d just find something else to satisfy their cravings. It’s actually better that these people stick with pot rather than binging on alcohol (which has a much stronger record of death and violence). And, the only reason pot is a gateway drug is because you have to buy it from a drug dealer; the same would be true if alcohol, sleeping pills, or tobacco were illegal. If you could buy it at the local WallMart, it would be just like a pack of Marlboros. The worst thing about keeping pot illegal is that people fall for scams like “synthetic marijuana”, which allow them to pass drug tests while exposing them to unknown substances that are much more dangerous than anything in pot. I have no interest in smoking pot, but the people I know who do don’t lead reckless lives or get into trouble with other drugs. The war on pot has been a scam from day one.

  • Debra Mcdaniel

    I think it is sending a confusing message to young teens..Although I do think it’s less harmful than alcohol It still should be regulated.I have known many more die or even struggle with alcohol in my family than I care to say..I was hoping to use it for my pain and anxiety,as well as my PTSD if they get medical marijuana in Missouri legal.

  • Holli Ann

    “For us to think that marijuana is not really as harmful as something else, well, what about that one kid who does get into a car accident because he’s smoking pot,” Looper added.

    What about the one inexperienced driver who happens to get into an accident because they’ve had too much caffeine (like Red Bull)?! Same difference, IMO.

  • Michelle E.

    Yep…. Just what the terrorists need…..
    A country so wasted on drugs and drink…
    No morals…. No one cares about anything anymore….
    An Easy mark for total destruction….
    But there is still time to wake up, and get America back on track!

  • Sam

    I’ll grant the one person who loses their life while driving under the influence if you’ll grant me the millions who have their lives ruined by going to jail for a harmless substance.

    The war on drugs has destroyed our communities, fed the gangs (criminalizing a substance creates black market for it that breeds gang behavior), and has created an excuse to militarize the police force and increase surveillance programs that curtail our civil liberties. It has also led to the rise of a profit-driven prison industry that makes billions by locking up Americans and then reinvests that money lobbying the government for harsher sentencing. The War on Drugs is one of the most disastrous domestic policies in US history and it needs to end.

  • malcolmkyle

    Prohibition isn’t like a disease where we’re still waiting for the cure to be discovered—we know the cure for this right now. This isn’t like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet. It doesn’t take some stroke of genius or feat of technology. We have everything we need right now to end this moronothon. Rarely in the history of mankind have we encountered a problem of such magnitude and consequence that is so eminently solvable.

    We are actually experiencing a de facto civl war between the majority (those who embrace reason and function in the real world of cause and effect) and the prohibitionists, who, numbed by their isolation and despair, are seeking meaning in a mythical world that can never, ever, be reality-based. A world of deceit and lies, of blood and corpses—a world of complete social and economic collapse.

  • Tom Paine

    Many hospitals refuse to hire tobacco smokers, and I have yet to hear of any business owner that encourages his employees to get stoned after hours as a way to get ahead… Other than perhaps Leo, the owner of Photo Hut in That 70’s Show…

    I have heard that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates used drugs in their youth, but I bet they did not encourage it at work… But it would explain why windows crashes so often. And that graphical interface was not Jobs’ idea – it came from Xerox…

    I suppose a bigger question to ask is why are you all so stressed that you “need” it for recreation? Unfulfilled goals, perhaps? What else could you do with that time?

    • Barleywine

      I don’t think you’ll see a strong rise in people using marijuana once it is legal. A reasonable adult can go grab a couple of drinks with friends, but not drink a 6 pack every night after work or get drunk before going in. Why can’t the same be said for cannabis? It’s less addictive than alcohol, and can be used responsibly, too. An employer will know if you’re coming in stoned.

      As for you your last question, why would you care what I do with my time? It’s just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I feel happy with every minute of it.

    • Jumpin'_Jack_Flash

      Need? It’s not about need. It’s about like…. about enjoy….. just like a glass of fine wine. It’s the exact same thing. Do you drink alcohol? Do you drink it because you “need” a drink or do you drink it because you “enjoy” it.

      You don’t seem to recognize the difference when you make an assumption that everybody who uses it “needs” it.

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