Hands down, cannabis comes out on top despite the ever-present stigma that rears its ugly head even in legal recreational-use states. Alcohol use, however, is generally still more popular and widely accepted in the adult world.
In this information age boasting huge amounts of data, it appears that easy-to-access facts about the risk factors of both cannabis and alcohol don’t really matter. Something else does.
Here are some of the reasons why I think the hard facts are overlooked. Behind the risk factors of both cannabis and alcohol lies what I believe is largely assumed social reasoning, including, but not limited to, peer pressure.
- Cannabis in all its forms is still illegal federally; classified as a Schedule I drug with no medical benefit in the same category as heroin and maligned as a ‘gateway’ drug.
- The mindset of cannabis as the “devil weed,” beginning in the 1930’s with the movie Reefer Madness, was seared into the public perception and has been passed down through generations of families.
- Even more recently cannabis has been portrayed similarly to alcohol in regards to having more risks than benefits.
- As a result people fear for their reputation and do not want to risk being labeled as some level of a ‘loser’ by those who are important to them, yet uninformed.
- Alcohol is more of a social lubricator.
- Alcohol in many cases confers social status.
- Joining-in relieves others for any guilt they may have about drinking.
- Alcohol consumption is a huge money maker for restaurants, sporting and other social events.
Peer-reviewed scientific studies have had much to say, especially about alcohol, since there are more data points for alcohol given it has been studied over a longer period of time. Note that the information below regarding marijuana often references regular and/or heavy recreational use and not medicinal use. Medicinal use applies the principle of utilizing the smallest amount to get the greatest health benefit.
To date most still think of medicinal and recreational use of marijuana as one and the same. This could not be farther from the truth. As the overall stigma on marijuana fades, I believe these distinctions will become clearer to more and more people. But for now, and for most, marijuana is dumped in one basket.
Click the link below to see a documented side-by-side comparison.
World Health Organization 2018 
Drug Use and Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes. 
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teachers: Drug Facts Chat Day – Marijuana 
National Survey on Drug Use and Health (US) 
The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research 
Alcohol and Mental Health 
Alcohol as a Carcinogen 
Marijuana Use Associated with Increased Risk of Stroke, Heart Failure 2017 
The Difference Between a Substance Use Disorder and an Addiction 
Remarkable Increases in Alcohol Use Disorders 
Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk 
NCADD Alcohol, Drugs and Crime 
The neural correlates of alcohol-related aggression 2018 
Couple’s Marijuana Use … 
Memory and Marijuana 
Alcohol and Memory Loss 
Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada 
In the final analysis and with all of the above being true, a 2015 scientific report ranks cannabis way better than alcohol when it comes to risk factors. So what’s all the hoopla about the importance of facts?