What’s more dangerous for teens – marijuana or alcohol? That’s a question a recent article in the NY Times tried to answer. Most kids will try one or the other at some point, if not both, so many parents are facing the question of whether they would rather their kids experimented with alcohol or marijuana. It may be easier for parents to demonize marijuana as its illegal and some studies are linking it to psychosis or decreased lung function, but these are just associations, not pathways, and when these risks are compared to alcohol, they can seem quite minor.

Marijuana is illegal in most states, so the obvious worry of many parents is the link between marijuana and crime, with penalties for marijuana possession being much worse than the penalties for underage drinking, but alcohol has a significant link to crime, with alcohol being a factor in 40% of violent crimes in the US – no such association has been linked to marijuana, with most marijuana related criminal charges being linked to its illegal distribution rather than violent acts committed by those taking it. Although casual use of alcohol isn’t necessarily a problem as much as alcohol disorders are, the statistics still stand and say that alcohol has a stronger link to crime than marijuana.

Health is a huge factor that parents need to consider. Binge drinking accounts for about half of the 80000 alcohol-related deaths in the US and is largely a middle-class problem. It’s extremely dangerous, costs the American economy billions and is a major killer. On the other hand, the number of deaths associated with marijuana is very close to zero.

While marijuana increases the chances of being in a fatal car accident by 83%, alcohol mixed with drugs raises the odds to more than 2200%. Alcohol alone increases the chances of being in a crash by 575% if the driver has a blood alcohol content of 0.05 or over.

Any ER doctor or nurse will tell you that they see more people come into the hospital with alcohol related injuries than marijuana related injuries – that may be because alcohol is more common than marijuana but the fact stills stands that alcohol is extremely dangerous, and marijuana, less so. Alcohol is a leading cause of death in young people, and far less death and injury is linked to marijuana.