The Economist is debating legalization. From Ethan Nadelmann’s closing argument in favor of it:
Legalisation may … result in more adults using marijuana, but the negative consequences of any increase in use are likely to be modest given its relative safetycompared with most other psychoactive plants and substances. Legal regulation offers the promise of safer use, with consumers able to purchase their marijuana from licensed outlets and to know the type and potency of their purchases—and to have peace of mind that such purchases will be free from contamination. Legalisation will also accelerate the transition from smoking marijuana in joints and pipes to consuming it in edible and vaporised forms, with significant health benefits for heavy consumers.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide use marijuana not just “for fun” but because they find it useful for many of the same reasons that people drink alcohol or take pharmaceutical drugs. It’s akin to the beer, glass of wine, or cocktail at the end of the work day, or the prescribed drug to alleviate depression or anxiety, or the sleeping pill, or the aid to sexual function and pleasure. A decade ago, a subsidiary of The Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal, speculated whether marijuana might soon emerge as the “aspirin of the 21st century“, providing a wide array of medical benefits at low cost to diverse populations. That prediction appears ever more prescient as scientists employed by both universities and pharmaceutical companies explore marijuana’s potential.
Mark Perry digs up the above chart illustrating the relative harms of various drugs. You will note the drug-specific mortality of marijuana: zero. Notice also how relatively safe steroids and mushrooms are. This debate is all but over.
Perry also flags a fascinating 2010 interview with neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt about the dangers of various drugs, seen below: