Marijuana Deaths and Injuries: Not Just a Matter of Drug Toxicity

Marijuana as a Cause of Death and Injury

Dawson Law Group continues its series on the impact of Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana. Today, we look at the issue of the personal and public health dangers of weed.

Despite the likely criminal justice benefits of “legalizing” (see our prior post for an explanation of these “”s), the safety of marijuana is surely greatly exaggerated.

Here, for instance, is a common comparison often used by pro-pot activists:

Drug Deaths Compared
Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis 31,903
All Illicit Drugs Combined 17,000
Cannabis 0


The problem here, of course, is that while marijuana’s toxicity is certainly very low compared to booze and opioids, the fact remains that, for logical reasons, most marijuana gets smoked, rather than eaten. Hence, there is almost certainly a huge number of premature lung cancer deaths that have to be attributed to weed.

Weed and Civil Liability

But that isn’t all. As we all know from the well-publicized case of alcohol, the personal and public health dangers of any recreational substance have to be assessed not just in regard to the substance’s inherent toxicity to its users, but also with reference to its behavior-altering effects. Just like using a cell phone in the car, driving while drunk hugely raises the odds of hurting yourself and others. The same is almost certainly true of stoned driving, for rather obvious reasons.

The research in this area is very new. But, as Oregon and other states legalize pot, it is certain to get a great deal more attention. At some point soon, ongoing research, public pressure, and the civil justice system are likely to produce legislated thresholds for establishing the blood THC content levels that we collectively define as negligent for operators of automobiles. Just as BAC limits have been codified and sanctioned, BTHCC will someday be understood and penalized, both civilly and criminally, in car crashes.

At that point, it seems sure that there will be roadside finger pokes added to alcohol breathalyzer testing.

If you or your loved one are injured or killed by a stoned driver, can that day come soon enough?

We’ll say it again: Marijuana is not risk-free. It is not health food.

[Posted by attorney Bryan Dawson, November 12, 2014]