Marijuana is a remarkably safe drug.
Although its primary active ingredients (THC and other cannabinoids) produce psychoactive effects at doses of a couple of milligrams, they do not have lethal effects. Unlike other psychoactive drugs, including alcohol, aspirin, opiates, nicotine and caffeine, cannabis is not known to cause fatal overdoses. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s own administrative judge Francis Young, in his 1988 decision recommending legalization of medical marijuana, wrote, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to mankind.” From animal experiments, it has been estimated that a lethal does of cannabis would be 20,000 to 40,000 times a normal dose: approximately 40 to 80 pounds of marijuana. No deaths from cannabis overdose have ever been recorded.
Marijuana’s safety may be explained by how it acts in the body.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that marijuana’s active ingredients, the cannabinoids, work on a signaling system in our bodies known as the endogenous cannabinoid, or endocannabinoid system. Receptor cells for this system are concentrated in many parts of the brain and body, but are relatively lacking in the brainstem, which controls vital functions such as breathing and heartbeat. Therefore, even strong doses do not endanger life.
This is not to say that marijuana cannot have adverse effects. Like all drugs, marijuana can cause harm if taken in excess or abused. In addition, certain people simply respond poorly to marijuana, finding it more unpleasant than beneficial. But what’s important is that people have access to accurate information about marijuana. Without information, how will they know whether it will benefit them, what dose they should take, and how they can gain access to a regular supply.
A recent study found that alcohol was the leading contributor to drug related deaths, causing nearly 400,000 deaths in a 20 year period while marijuana contributed only a marginal amount of less than 200 deaths in the same 20 year period.
We might want to rethink legalizing marijuana and limiting the usage of alcohol consumption.