Marijuana as dangerous as heroin? C’mon!

As I write this, over 44 U.S. states have adopted medical marijuana laws and 8 states have made it legal to use recreationally. YAY for progress!!!

So, how did marijuana come to be viewed as dangerous in the first place? During times of growing anti-drug hysteria, former President Richard Nixon was able to pass the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which remains in effect until today. The passing of this act suddenly took marijuana from a legal drug (in the early 20th century) to a Schedule 1 drug, right next to heroin. Even cocaine and methamphetamine are considered less dangerous by this categorization.

In states that have since legalized marijuana, lawful dispensaries continue to be treated as criminal enterprises. Banks cannot legally accept deposits from these businesses, yet the federal government insists on collecting their tax dollars. If they don’t pay, they face fines to the tune of double what a so-called “legal” business would have to pay. In other words, marijuana dispensaries must obey the law to a T, but are given none of the benefits and protections that a taxpaying business would normally enjoy. In fact, their jobs are made harder through all sorts of ‘red tape’.

Let me tell you why I feel so *passionately* about this topic. We all have heard of people dying of overdoses from methamphetamine, prescription opioids or cocaine – but marijuana? I don’t think soooo!! Not only has marijuana not killed anyone, but it has helped countless people with epilepsy and other neurological conditions, mood disorders, chronic pain, and inflammation. It does this without any of the harmful side effects associated with many prescription medications, and in fact, it has been shown to have many beneficial “side effects”.

So, why all the fuss over legalization?

In a TIME Magazine article published last year, researchers found that doctors in a state where marijuana is legal ended up prescribing an average of 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year. (Huge blow to pharmaceutical companies, amirite?)

Let’s take a commonly prescribed opioid medication and compare the side-effects with CBD, a non-psychoactive (won’t make you high) form of marijuana:

Oxycontin:                                                                              Cannabidiol (marijuana):

Attempted and completed suicide                                   Dry mouth

Overdose                                                                               Low blood pressure

Seizures                                                                                 Lightheadedness

Addiction                                                                               Drowsiness


Life-threatening respiratory depression

Increased liver enzymes


Pharmaceutical companies like to say that marijuana hasn’t been tested rigorously enough. But why is that? Such studies are painfully slow to be approved and completed (currently, all federally approved studies share a single cannabis supplier at the University of Mississippi). Also, they’re expensive. Since a plant cannot be patented in its natural form, no one is interested in funding a study because the end result wouldn’t be profitable. Still, many companies have found sneaky ways of getting around this law, by formulating products that contain only isolated parts of the plant.

In another TIME Magazine article, scientists say marijuana should be made easier to study, citing “anecdotal patient reports, increasing numbers of legitimate clinical case studies, and large amounts of preclinical studies that all indicate tumor-fighting activities of cannabinoids.” In one study, a compound in marijuana was found to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. Researchers say further studies are essential to determine proper medicinal dosages, and to learn which parts of the plant are beneficial for which conditions.

I believe that people deserve to have options – especially when that option has been used safely for a much longer timeframe than say, Oxycontin.