- The Weed Blog https://www.theweedblog.com

Politifact Says “Marijuana Is Less Toxic Than Alcohol” Is Mostly True. Mostly?

11
Share.

alcohol marijuana toxic marijuana policy project politifactThe Marijuana Policy Project ran an advertisement that claimed “marijuana is less toxic than alcohol”.  The political watchdog group PolitiFact then took it upon themselves to adjudicate the truthfulness of the claim.  They determined the claim is “mostly true”.

“Mostly”?  How can a claim that purports a mathematical inequality and a medically measurable effect be “mostly true”?  ”Three is less than five” is not “mostly true”; it is true.  ”Marijuana is less toxic than alcohol” is just plain “true”.

To judge the claim, PolitiFact looked at mortality data from the use of alcohol and marijuana.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 41,000 deaths attributed to alcohol in 2010.  Almost 16,000 of those deaths were from alcoholic liver disease and the other 25,000+ did not include accidents and homicides attributable to alcohol.

The CDC’s figures for marijuana?  There aren’t any.  No reports of marijuana listed as a cause of death.

Well, that seems pretty simple then, doesn’t it?  Alcohol can kill you, marijuana cannot, therefore, “marijuana is less toxic than alcohol”.  Ah, not so fast, logical-thinking, common-sense-using reader.  In a masterful turn of Clintonian parsing, the critics of the claim say it all depends on what the meaning of the word “toxic” is.

For starters, the term toxic can be vague. Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, said toxic can be “anything that causes harm. It is possible to drink enough water to poison yourself. It’s more related to the dose than anything else.”

That’s an interesting definition of toxic.  ”Anything that causes harm”.  My first Google of “toxic” got me “poisonous”, and clicking on that got me “(of a substance or plant) causing or capable of causing death or illness if taken into the body.”  Merriam-Webster dictionary says “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation”.  Indeed, too much water can kill you, but not because water is poisonous; rather because it causes hyponatremiaor having “waterlogged blood” that can lead to swelling in the brain.

The National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) chime in as well, with this absurd statement:

NIDA states in an email that the effect of marijuana can depend on the person (their biology) who’s using it, the amount and under what circumstances.

“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,” according to an agency email statement.

“Risks and consequences”?  The claim is “marijuana is less toxic than alcohol” and NIDA wants to stretch the definition of “toxic” to the “risks and consequences” you may suffer from use of marijuana?  By that definition unprotected sex, gambling, and joining the Army are “toxic”.

But don’t let that distract you.  Focus on that part Dr. Lewis-Younger said about toxic being “related to the dose”.  For later in the PolitiFact piece, they note the study of Dr. William Gable, who compared the relative toxicity of twenty substances using a little something called science.  He calculated the effective dose (read: how much it takes to get high) to the lethal dose (read: how much it takes to overdose and die) of each drug.  It is true that these figures can vary – I can probably outdrink Kristin Chenoweth, for instance, just because she’s a 4’11″ petite woman and I’m a 6’0″ overweight man – so Dr. Gable collected lots of data and quantified those figures as ED-50 and LD-50, which meant how much effective dose and lethal dose would work on at least 50% of the test subjects.

For each substance, Dr. Gable then came up with the “therapeutic ratio” – the comparison of ED-50 to LD-50.  The larger the ratio, the more toxic the drug.  For example, intravenous heroin use was his most toxic drug, coming in at a 1:5 ratio (one hit gets you high, five hits kills you).  Surprisingly, nutmeg has a 1:7 ratio… and you may not have even known nutmeg can get you high, since the government never put it in the drug schedules.  (Seriously, don’t try to get high on nutmeg – it’s not a pleasant trip and it’s very dangerous.)

Alcohol comes in at a 1:10 ratio.  This can be adjusted for the user.  Kristin Chenoweth may cop a buzz on two drinks, twenty will kill her.  I may cop a buzz on four drinks, forty will kill me.  It’s one-to-ten no matter how you slice it.

Marijuana doesn’t even really have a ratio.  Gable’s chart puts it at 1:>1000+ – one joint will get you high, it will take over 1,000 to kill you.  Since he couldn’t find any recorded deaths from marijuana, he couldn’t even really give it a number (Math 101: You cannot divide by zero).

With such stark scientific data making the case that marijuana is, indeed, less toxic than alcohol, and with drug war opponents stretching the definition of “toxic” so broadly, we can say when it comes to marijuana, PolitiFact is Mostly Believable.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

Share.

About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.

  • Johnny Bloomington

    Gotta love semantics.

  • Pat Cowdin

    Guess it’s not politically correct for them to just pronounce the claim, “completely true,” even though they have no clear reason to do otherwise. NIDA’s ridiculous “statement” is straight-up political spin, unsupported by any reference to scientific research, although Politifact doesn’t question it. Here’s the original article:

    http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2013/aug/19/marijuana-policy-project/pro-pot-group-claims-marijuana-less-toxic-alcohol/

  • Stephen Weber

    Is marijuana less toxic than alcohol?

    For starters, the term ‘toxic’ can be vague. Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, said toxic can be “anything that causes harm. It is possible to drink enough water to poison yourself. It’s more related to the dose than anything else.”

    NIDA states in an email that the effect of marijuana can depend on the person (their biology) who’s using it, the amount and under what circumstances. “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”.

    I decided that I would likely describe NIDA’s response as a ‘cop out’, but unlike them, I checked, to be sure this would be a correct application of the term.

    Sure enough:

    cop out, n. A failure to fulfill a commitment or responsibility or to face a difficulty squarely. An excuse for inaction or evasion. an instance of avoiding responsibility or commitment. Avoidance or inadequate performance of a task or duty; an excuse made in such an instance.

    slang, vb (intr, adverb) to fail to assume responsibility or to commit oneself; to choose not to do something, as out of fear of failing; to renege.

    An excuse designed to shirk responsibility. refers to taking the easy way out of a sticky situation, an excuse to not finish something in an acceptable way. Placing blame on something else to make things easier for yourself is a a cop out.

    Synonyms: avoidance, cop-out, dodging, ducking, eluding, elusion, eschewal, eschewing, evasion

  • Cherokee

    Marijuana is one of the safest things on this planet with a rating of LD 50, water is more dangerous , It takes around 2.6 gallons of water to kill you if you drink it quickly. These people politifact need to be ignored. They are morons who just discredited themselves

  • Gman

    I Live in Southern Cali If you need some DANK “Jack Herer”, “Northern Lights”,”Blue Dream”, OG Kush”, Alien OG” Sour D etc… email me Nfvv@ymail.com and maybe ill give you my number

  • John

    HAHAHAHAHA “Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since every study that we have funded has only dealt with negative aspects of the use of marijuana.” Fixed the quote for them. 41,682 to none. Wow.

    Also to the poster below, I read through all the comments on the HuffPost blog and it looks like she is getting reamed pretty well for having just made shit up.

  • Choom Gang

    Its such a simple concept, a government employee could get it. But they are ordered to lie. A skill that is prerequisite for government employment.

  • wowFAD

    Russ, you really ought to do a similar take-down of another drug worrier’s response to Dr Gupta’s documentary — a HuffPo blog post by one Sue Rusche.
    In her blog post, she plays fast and loose with the definition of “overdose” claiming that concentrated THC is the “crack” of cannabis that is “causing people to overdose.”
    Unfortunately, HuffPo has a fairly fascist “moderation” policy for comments — if a blogger unabashedly lies, it is considered ad hominem to justifiably call the blogger a liar, so the comment never gets posted.
    It’s also considered unacceptable to point out who funds Sue and how many millions of dollars she’s taken over the last three decades to fabricate information — those comments are never posted, either.

  • moldy

    So did they throw this out there because of the whiny ass rehab groups needed a bone? Only about 90% of the population know that weed is in a different category. You’ve got toxic and non toxic. You really didn’t have sex with that intern, just a blow job. Fucking NIDA thinks we’re all stupid I guess. Maybe if Obama would have kept a fraction of his promises we would have to keep hearing these lies. And don’t count on Ms. Clinton to do the right thing, she’s in on it too.

  • Mar’ Barn

    It’s absolute true, not just mostly!

  • EphU

    … reposting from an earlier thread …

    I will extend a challenge to PolitiFact, NIDA, DEA, Obama, Holder, FDA, and whomever else wishes to attend:

    I will smoke as much cannabis as I can. All day long – non stop and for as long as you want me to.
    You drink as much alcohol as you can. All day long – non stop.

    You will die of alcohol poisoning in about 72 hours (or wish you had) but dont worry, I will be there to carry your sorry butt to the emergency room. So tell me again how cannabis is just as dangerous as alcohol. Study over, I win azzholes.