As cannabis becomes officially legalized, there’s a question that’s on a lot of people’s minds: is it safer and better for us than alcohol? After all, alcohol is the most widely used, and legal drug out there.

Those who study the two vices, generally believe that alcohol is more harmful. But it’s a debate that has a lot of nuances, since cannabis has been illegal for so long (almost 100 years in Canada).

The National Post recently wrote an article that talks in detail about the impact of both substances on biology, health, and even sex. They specifically call out the fact that there have been no marijuana-related deaths, while alcohol accounts for thousands every year:Cannabis is used daily by millions worldwide, but there has never been a reported case of anyone overdosing on weed alone. In 1988, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration judge wrote that a pot smoker “would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”

In the U.S., an average of six people die of alcohol poisoning each day.

But overdoses aside, what else is important when comparing alcohol and cannabis and our consumption levels? The question is clearly on the minds of the nation. In fact, according to a new poll conducted by Ipsos (for Global News), nearly half of cannabis users in Canada — 45 per cent — say they will drink less alcohol now that pot is legal.

And, if making that short-term change is health-related, the research seems to line up when it comes to the impact longer term.

Chronic exposure to alcohol is associated with cancer and liver cirrhosis, and strokes. The same hasn’t been seen for cannabis use.

That’s not to say there aren’t risks associated with marijuana. And it may come down to how you’re consuming your cannabis. Smoking can cause harm to your lungs, though the link to lung damage compared to cigarette use is very low. Heavy cannabis use among young people can be dangerous for those who are prone to psychosis, as it can trigger an early onset of symptoms, so that’s important to be aware of.

Consuming cannabis through edibles and tinctures seems to have nothing but positive effects short and long-term, as long as dosing is done moderately and safely. But research is still very new in this area.

At the end of the day, it’s a bit of a conundrum to compare the two directly, as they’re so different. It’s comparing apples to oranges, so to speak. Like anything, practicing moderation and safe consumption practices is recommended.

As more and more research is done, and more conversation is had, it’s certainly a buzzworthy topic to take part in. 

Next up: how does the combination of cannabis and alcohol affect you? In an upcoming blog we’ll discuss the rising trend of cannabis cocktails, and even share some recipes to try yourself at home.