Many Americans hold the belief that smoking marijuana is inherently bad for your health. While inhaling any type of smoke into your lungs is not necessarily healthy, the negative effects of tobacco use far outweigh those of marijuana use. According to WebMD, studies show that while weed and tobacco appear to have nearly the same amount of carcinogens, they do not pose the same risk. The nicotine in tobacco makes the human body more vulnerable to these cancer-causing agents, while the THC in marijuana may help protect against these carcinogens.
Another study, which looked at more than 2,000 people around the age of sixty, similarly concluded that even heavy use of marijuana did not seem to put the user at a high risk for cancer. The study involved around 600 participants with lung cancer, 600 with other types of cancer, and over 1,000 people without cancer. Those who smoked cigarettes were found to be twenty times more likely to develop cancer, while the use of marijuana appeared to have no effect on the likelihood of developing cancer. The study also found that those who smoked more tobacco were at a higher risk, but neither light nor heavy marijuana use was likely to cause cancer.
Because the substance is currently illegal in most states, there have still been few studies of the long-term health effects of marijuana. Because smoking weed lowers blood pressure and raises heart rate, there may be a higher risk of heart attacks among smokers, particularly among older smokers. A Harvard Medical School study suggests, however, that this risk is only slightly higher than the heart attack risk posed by having sex or performing other similarly physically demanding exercises. Also, this increased risk is apparently its strongest within the first hour of smoking; after two hours, heart attack risk typically returns to normal.
Another unconfirmed fact that many Americans have been taught about marijuana is that it is a gateway drug, or a substance that opens the door to the use of harder drugs. A Yale study found that young men were 2.5 times more likely to move on to prescription drug abuse after smoking marijuana. However, the study also found that cigarette and tobacco use were 25 times more likely to lead to hard drug abuse in young men. While the study focused on users of prescription drugs, little was said about marijuana users who did not go on to use more illicit substances.
This may leave you wondering what the big deal is about marijuana use. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, is one of many marijuana advocate groups wondering the same thing. NORML is working to improve policies regarding marijuana in the United States. You can visit their website, norml.org, to learn more about the political side of marijuana use, and to find information regarding the current laws in your state. Before you make any vote on your opinion of the legality of marijuana, make sure you know all the facts about the health effects and political effects of legalizing weed.