What is more dangerous and addictive: methamphetamines and cocaine or marijuana? Ask any rational person and they will say methamphetamines and cocaine. Ask Michael Botticelli, National Drug Control Policy deputy director, however, and expect an evasive answer. This is what happened at the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee meeting last Tuesday.
"I asked which is more dangerous and you couldn't say and you sir, represent part of the problem," said Rep. Earl Blumenaur (D-OR) to Botticelli. "Let me suggest, that your inability to answer me, whether tobacco or marijuana is more dangerous, again, is part of the problem."
Botticelli is trying hard to convince us that marijuana harm should not be minimized in comparison to hard drugs. As frustrating as the video is, the exchange represents a systematic failing of our national drug policy. It is almost completely detached from data, reality and general common sense. The Department of Justice lists marijuana as a schedule I drug, the most severe labeling on it's one through five scale.
"Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence," according to the DEA.
Check out these seven drugs our government thinks are less addictive and dangerous than marijuana.
Like cocaine, methamphetamine is a schedule II drug. It releases a surge of dopamine, causing a prolonged sense of euphoria. Over time though, methamphetamine destroys dopamine receptors, making it impossible to feel pleasure. Abusers often suffer from "meth mouth," open sores, and extreme weight loss.
Cocaine is a schedule II drug responsible for more U.S. emergency room visits than any other illegal drug. It harms the brain, heart, blood vessels and lungs. Cocaine can constrict blood vessels in the brain, causing strokes in young people without other risk factors.
Ketamine, also known as Special K, is a general anesthetic most often used in veterinary practice. The odorless liquid can be snorted or swallowed and has gained prominence as a club drug, sometimes in pill form. Users report feeling euphoric, having hallucinations and dissociative feelings (like you're floating outside your body). Sometimes recreational users refer to being in a "k-hole," which is pretty much what it sounds like: being so detached that one can feel like they're near death. It is a schedule III drug.
Compare that to marijuana, which has been proven helpful for treating a variety of medical conditions, including glaucoma, mitigating the side effects of cancer chemotherapy and stimulating appetite in AIDS patients. And being "stoned" is not nearly as dangerous as being stuck in a "k-hole."
Oxycontin (Oxycodone) is an extremely addictive prescription painkiller that can cause sudden death from overdoses or interactions with other drugs. In Canada, a 41% increase in painkiller-related death since its introduction in 2000 caused the country to pull Oxycontin from the market in 2012.
Marijuana has proved to be a safe and powerful for alleviating pain, including but not liited to muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting, and neuropathic pain. A smoker would have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.
Xanax is a schedule IV drug prescribed to combat anxiety, but has been known to cause physical and psychological illness including liver damage, seizures, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Like Oxycontin, Xanax is highly addictive and, according to DrugCite, was responsible for 76 deaths and 98 suicides between 2004 and 2012.
Methadone is a schedule II prescription drug used for pain relief. It can also substitute for heroin and be purchased on the streets for as little as 25 cents a pill. In 2009 15,597 methadone-related deaths occurred alone thanks to fatal cases of respiratory depression and accidental overdose.
As mentioned, marijuana is an excellent pain manager and moreover, there are no evident long-term cardiovascular problems for normal persons associated with marijuana use.
Anabolic steroid abuse has been associated with a wide range of adverse side effects ranging from some that render the user physically unattractive to others that are life threatening. Risks of this schedule III drug include excessive facial and body hair growth, male pattern boldness, severe acne, shrinking of the breasts for women and breast development for men.
Marijuana could be used to treat premenstrual syndrome and has been used to do so since the age of Queen Victoria.