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Is marijuana safer than alcohol?

The question of what kind of effect legalized marijuana is going to have on our country is a hot issue in debate right now. As of this moment in 2017, marijuana is legal as a recreational drug in Washington D.C., as well as the following states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Arizona was one of the five states that voted on legalization in the fall, and the only one in which it didn't pass.

Many advocates of legalization are quick to point out that when compared to other illegal substances, marijuana is considerably less dangerous. But the question many people are asking is not about the comparison of marijuana to illegal drugs - it's about how it stacks up next to a much more familiar vice - Alcohol.

In 2016, Arizona's own governor, Doug Ducey spoke out against legalization, encouraging voters to seek out the facts regarding the addictive properties and general safety concerns between marijuana and alcohol, insinuating that marijuana is the more dangerous of the two substances. But is that truly the case?

While it's not my intention here to argue one stance over the other, I do think it's important to present the factual information that is available regarding the issue:

Addictive Properties

It's silly to deny that both of these substances have some addictive property to them, but when it comes down to numbers, alcohol addiction occurs more. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that around 9 percent of people who use marijuana will develop some dependency to it. This risk increases for people who begin using the drug before they are 18. In comparison, 15 percent of people who drink alcohol become dependent on it.

Negative Health Effects

Marijuana has not been found to have a fatal level of consumption, but that alone does not mean that it is "safe". There is research that links marijuana to some potential mental health concerns, such as a higher risk of psychosis and long-term cognitive impairment. Individuals who begin using marijuana in their teens and also those who use it very frequently and in high doses are at an increased risk for these effects. Alcohol, on the other hand, has many known negative effects including a high risk of overdose, which can be fatal, organ damage, and uncharacteristically dangerous behavior while under the influence.

Legal Ramifications of DUI

It also needs to be stressed that at this point in time, driving under the influence of either of these substances is against the law, and Arizona remains a strict state in regards to anyone who gets behind the wheel while impaired. There may eventually be some kind of reevaluation of the law in regards to marijuana use, but it will always be dangerous to drive in any state of impairment. For those who feel they have been unfairly arrested and charged with a DUI in Arizona, you may have legal options to fight it. Contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.

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