Memo for the President: Alcohol is Safer than Marijuana

To President Obama, marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol: “As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” Obama told New Yorker Editor David Remnick. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

But that’s not true, as scientists are now discovering.  Marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.  Consider the impact of alcohol on offspring.

There are two ways offspring can be effected by their parents’ or ancestors’ alcohol consumption.  The first way is if a mother repeatedly binges.  The likely result will be a child with fetal alcohol syndrome.  The child gets FAS because it was directly exposed to excessive, unsafe  amounts of alcohol through the mother’s blood stream.

The second way is if there is a genetic issue that predisposes a person to alcohol addiction.  Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine and elsewhere have shown it is possible to breed alcoholic rats who, given a choice between alcohol and sugar water, will take the alcohol every time.  But it takes work, and it requires generations.

How Marijuana is Different

But when it comes to marijuana, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have found that the sins of the parent are wreaked upon their offspring.  That’s true even when the parent has stopped consuming marijuana — and even when the consumption occurred when the parents were teens, long before the parents were mated, much less before the adolescent rat was born.

And the researchers also found that it took just one joint for the offspring to crave not just “no more harmful than alcohol” marijuana but heroin.

The study, just published in Neuropsychopharmacology, “emphasizes that cannabis [marijuana] affects not just those exposed, but has adverse affects on future generations,” said Yasmin Hurd, PhD, the study’s senior author, and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana.”

It should be an important consideration for Presidents, too.

Heart Attacks, Too

Obama might also want to consider a separate study, from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, which says marijuana increases the risk of having a heart attack within the first hour of smoking to five times that of non-smokers.

Moderate consumption of alcohol, on the other hand, has been repeatedly shown to reduce cardiovascular heart disease.

Comment 1:  Industry trade associations shouldn’t let alcohol be tarnished with marijuana’s tainted brush.  They should take ads to compare and contrast the health dangers of marijuana with the health benefits of alcohol.

Comment 2:  Cigarettes — which President Obama says smoked from his teens until he entered the White House — are the only consumer product proven deadly when used as intended.


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