The Medical Marijuana Magazine


Is marijuana really harmless, like everyone has been saying?

This is an example of what logic texts call a "strawman" argument, an easily knocked down target that its opponents have set up to make it appear that they are defeating their enemy. We frequently hear prohibitionist propagandists like Dona Shalala say that the "latest research" proves that "marijuana isn't harmless, like everyone has been saying." This then refutes the arguments against arresting marijuana users, because these arguments are based on the assumption that marijuana is harmless.

There are two problems with this line.

First, as a "strawman" it misrepresents the position of the anti-prohibitionists. The arguments against arresting marijuana users are not based on the assumption that marijuana is "harmless." Nothing is harmless for everyone, under all circumstances, and at all doses.

Second, it is particularly ironic that those who say that making marijuana available for medical use would "send the wrong message to children" don't seem to hear their own words. If only "the latest research" has proven that marijuana isn't harmless, then it must be pretty safe. Besides "harmlessness" does not particularly appeal to adolescents.

Finally, consider the meaning of the words "harmless," "safe," and "dangerous." These are relative terms as we use them in everyday life. Riding a bicycle is "safe," but many people are killed in bicycle accidents every year. Drinking pure water is surely "harmless," but a few people die every year from drinking too much water. It upsets the body's electrolytic balance, and the heart stops beating. In this relative context, compared to other substances, marijuana is clearly not "dangerous," but this does not mean that it is absolutely "harmless."

This is a frequently unasked question: Is being arrested "harmless?" Actually, it can be quite "dangerous." What is the latest research on that?