Pro-marijuana advocates Cheech and Chong posted a hilarious meme that perfectly captures those that fight the legalization of weed.
The photo is a group of pizzas with the caption, "These are the innocent victims destroyed by cannabis."
While the post is a silly way to encourage their fans to support legalization, their information isn't wrong. John Oliver exposed the impact the pharmaceutical industry has had in getting people hooked on opioids and the astounding increase in heroin overdose in the last few years. But marijuana couldn't be more different than heroin, pharmaceuticals and even alcohol.
One of the biggest anti-pot arguments is that there is a risk of people dying because of marijuana. One way could be because the user is driving under the influence. The problem with the logic is that we've legalized alcohol and don't seem to be ready to enact prohibition to stop drunk driving. Secondly, drunk driving is incomparable to driving under the influence of marijuana. Even CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained in his three-volume series "Weed" that frequent users of cannabis seem more able to handle vehicles than the casual user.
A second myth that pot can kill you is because it is more unhealthy than cigarettes. Weed is typically smoked without a filter, using self-rolled joints, glass pipes or bongs and some argue that it the lungs aren't protected as a result. A 2012 study disputes that. “Occasional and low cumulative marijuana use was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function," the study reads. So, if one was smoking a package of joints a day like people smoke cigarettes it might be true, but heavy users only smoke a joint or two a day and the typical user even less.
Another myth is that marijuana is addictive and can become a gateway drug. Studies on marijuana are difficult to do because the plant is federally outlawed, so hopefully more detailed information can be gathered about this. For now, a 1994 study outlines that a mere 9 percent of pot users become addicted. Scientists say that sugar is more addictive than marijuana.
The gateway-drug myth comes from heavy drug users saying that they first started using drugs when they tried marijuana. Correlation doesn't necessarily equate causation, however. There are so many other factors that can be in play in these incidents. Users also likely drank alcohol before smoking marijuana. They could have been born into a community that used ineffective "just say no" anti-drug campaigns. There are also plenty of marijuana users who only smoke marijuana and never graduated to heavier drugs. Nothing could debunk that myth better than the entire state of Colorado. If weed was such a gateway drug, Colorado would have the highest heroin overdoses in the country. They don't. States where pot is illegal have the highest deaths.
Ultimately, experts Cheech and Chong should have the answers. As longtime users, they're certainly an excellent case study into whether weed will kill you. Cheech turned 70 in July and Tommy Chong turned 78 in May.
Full legalization of recreational marijuana is on the ballot in California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Arizona and Maine. Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota have medical legalization on the ballot.