I understand the arguments for the legalization of marijuana: It can generate tax revenue. It can reduce illegal supply and demand. It can strip power from cartels and lessen crime across and at our borders. And it isn't so dangerous as other illegal drugs or alcohol.
President Barack Obama even claimed one of those arguments when he recently told New Yorker Editor David Remnick, "As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life."
Obama explained, "(Smoking marijuana is) not something I encourage, and I've told my daughters I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy." But then he added, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
With the president entering the cannabis conversation ring, debate has intensified around the nation. But what's the truth in the alcohol-vs.-marijuana dispute?
CNN recently reported on some extensive studies and evidence surrounding the topic, especially in comparing use, addiction, withdrawal and the effects on using motorized vehicles. Let me summarize those and cite some others. (Next week, I will discuss in greater detail how alcohol and marijuana compare in their effects on our minds, bodies and relationships.)
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol remains the leading addictive substance consumed in the U.S. But according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is categorized as a Schedule I substance -- in the same classification as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy. The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that 9 percent of marijuana users will become addicted to it. (By comparison, about 20 percent of cocaine users become addicted.) More than 4 million people abused pot or had an addiction problem with it in 2011, according to Fox News.
Alcoholics can suffer from the following withdrawal symptoms: depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, fever, nausea and even seizures. And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explained, "There is clear evidence that in some people, marijuana use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety and nausea." The National Institute on Drug Abuse added that the drug is linked to "school failure" and that high doses "can cause psychosis or panic when you're high," according to Fox News.