A good portion of the population is scared or hesitant to try marijuana, probably because they have heard marijuana is bad since they were young. I get it—I still don’t eat lobster, crabs or other shellfish because when I was young, I heard they were bottom dwellers, and thus, inedible. Meanwhile, for most people that grew up in the 1970s and 1980s like I did, their parents were busy feeding them cheeseburgers, fried chicken, french fries, donuts, cupcakes, soda, ice cream, and countless cereals laced with more sugar than you can count. Some parents were likely driving their kids to and from school without seatbelts while smoking a pack of cigarettes around them daily.
However, if you think about what you eat and drink on a normal basis (seriously, write it down) from the time you get up to the time you go to bed, there is a good likelihood that whatever is on your list is as bad or worse for your health than marijuana (unless you are a vegan or are eating a Mediterranean diet).8,9 Additionally, there are likely things that are entering your body that are out of your control, like air pollution, chemicals, microplastics, and spiders (hopefully only while you’re asleep).
So, let’s compare marijuana to other things in our everyday environment that most adult humans consume without a care in the world, and the known health impacts of these things.
Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is known to cause cancer, heart damage, stroke, high blood pressure, liver damage, pancreatitis, behavior changes, hallucinations, slurred speech (that can be hilarious, though), a shrinking brain, frequent diarrhea (also hilarious), infertility (clearly not an issue for me), and sexual dysfunction (definitely an issue for me). And this doesn’t include the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers, drunken fights, and people falling off roofs in New York City (this happens more than you think). Yet, the average American drinks 2.3 gallons of alcohol per year,10 and the average number of deaths associated with excessive drinking (almost 90,000) is higher than the total number of people who die from opioids each year.11 A recent study led by King’s College London (KCL) has found that drinking four small glasses of wine or four pints of beer per week damages short-term memory and spatial awareness and increases the risk of developing dementia in older age.12 Cheers!
Tobacco: Smoking tobacco is known to cause cancer, diabetes, gum disease, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, COPD, arthritis, and eye disease. Not only do you get the benefit of all of this for yourself, but you can also cause damage to others through secondhand smoke, which causes some of the above issues in non-smokers. More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.13 Furthermore, you get the added benefit of awful teeth, bad breath, and cracked, dry skin. It’s a winner!
Red and processed meat: Eating red and processed meat can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer.14 Not to mention the delicious french fries that accompany your medium-well burger, which may cause an elevated risk of all-cause death, especially death from cardiovascular disease.15
Fried foods: Do I really need to get into how bad fried foods are for you? See above. Or just go to a state fair and look at the amount of fried food available and the people that are consuming said food. Case closed.
Fish: Although most fish is generally good for you, there is still some elevated risk of consuming too much mercury, which can damage your central nervous system.16 Ironically, listening to the band Phish too much can also affect your central nervous system.
Desserts and junk food snacks: These delicious bastards can lead to higher cholesterol and diabetes. However, I will say if anything besides marijuana is worth dying for, a warm molten chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream is the next best thing. It could be one of the best things on earth.
Pollution: Studies have linked living in a city with high air pollution to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for twenty-nine years.17 Which would be just great if city life didn’t also mess with people’s mental health, leading to more people with mood disorders and anxiety.
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