UCLA Professor Donald Tashkin Confirms that Marijuana is Safer than Tobacco


There are many remnants of Reefer Madness that get used to campaign against marijuana legalization, from the debunked gateway theory to incorrect claims about mayhem on the highways. One such piece of propaganda, that marijuana is more deadly than cigarettes has been debunked once and for all as UCLA professor Donald Tashkin confirms that marijuana is safer than tobacco. Positive studies about cannabis usually don’t get as much publicity as negative ones, and Dr. Tashkin’s study that found no correlation between marijuana smoking and cancer was no different. If Tashkin’s results would have been the opposite, I guarantee that we would have heard a lot more about the study.

LA Weekly reports:

“The smoke content of marijuana is very similar to that of tobacco,” explains Tashkin. “There is a higher concentrate of cancer-causing chemicals in marijuana tar, and it reaches the lungs before any other organ, so there is this idea that they are related in causing the same health issues of the lungs.”

But, he says, “Through my studies, we failed to find any positive association.” Instead, “the association would be negative, between lung cancer and the use of marijuana. The likelihood is, that despite the fact that marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, we don’t see the same heightened risks of cancers that we see in tobacco.”

Tashkin also discusses the fact that smoking marijuana, unlike smoking tobacco, does not cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “Reasoning for this may be that marijuana is a potent anti-inflammatory and suppressive,” he says. But “COPD is activated by tobacco smoke and other toxic substances.”

Dr. Tashkin expected to find that heavy marijuana use led to increased cancer rates, but he was pleasantly surprised. It would be nice if prohibitionists would be as willing to admit that they have been wrong with just about every dire prediction they have made about medical marijuana or cannabis legalization. The sky hasn’t fallen in Colorado; in fact, the state is booming. Nor have sensible cannabis policies brought down the social order anywhere. As the years progress and Reefer Madness continues to be replaced by reason and science, sensible cannabis laws will continue to flourish across the globe.

Carl Wellstone is a writer, blogger and civil libertarian.