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We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner

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Which is worse for you: weed or whiskey?

It’s a tough call, but based on the science, there appears to be a clear answer.

Keep in mind that there are dozens of factors to account for, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior, and how likely you are to get hooked.

Time is important, too — while some effects are noticeable immediately, others only begin to crop up after months or years of use.

The comparison is slightly unfair for another reason: While scientists have been researching the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is a lot murkier because of its mostly illegal status.

More than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014. There have been zero documented deaths from marijuana use alone

In 2014, 30,722 people died from alcohol-induced causes in the US — and that does not count drinking-related accidents or homicides. If those deaths were included, the number would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, no deaths from marijuana overdoses have been reported, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. A 16-year study of more than 65,000 Americans, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that healthy marijuana users were not more likely to die earlier than healthy people who did not use cannabis.

Marijuana appears to be significantly less addictive than alcohol

Close to half of all adults have tried marijuana at least once, making it one of the most widely used illegal drugs — yet research suggests that a relatively small percentage of people become addicted.

For a 1994 survey, epidemiologists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse asked more than 8,000 people from ages 15 to 64 about their drug use. Of those who had tried marijuana at least once, roughly 9% eventually fit a diagnosis of addiction. For alcohol, the figure was about 15%. To put that in perspective, the addiction rate for cocaine was 17%, while heroin was 23% and nicotine was 32%.

Marijuana may be harder on your heart, while moderate drinking could be beneficial

Unlike alcohol, which slows your heart rate, marijuana speeds it up, which could negatively affect the heart in the short term. Still, the largest-ever report on cannabis from the National Academies of Sciences, released in January, found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis may increase the overall risk of a heart attack.

On the other hand, low to moderate drinking — about one drink a day — has been linked with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared with abstention. James Nicholls, a director at Alcohol Research UK, told The Guardian that those findings should be taken with a grain of salt since “any protective effects tend to be canceled out by even occasional bouts of heavier drinking.”

Alcohol is strongly linked with several types of cancer; marijuana is not

In November, a group of the nation’s top cancer doctors issued a statement asking people to drink less. They cited strong evidence that drinking alcohol — as little as a glass of wine or beer a day — increases the risk of developing both pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer.

The US Department of Health lists alcohol as a known human carcinogen. Research highlighted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that the more alcohol you drink — particularly the more you drink regularly — the higher your risk of developing cancer.

For marijuana, some research initially suggested a link between smoking and lung cancer, but that has been debunked. The January report found that cannabis was not connected to any increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers tied to smoking cigarettes.

Both drugs may be linked with risks while driving, but alcohol is worse

A research note published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (PDF) found that, when adjusting for other factors, having a detectable amount of THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) in your blood did not increase the risk of being involved in a car crash. Having a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.05%, on the other hand, increased that risk by 575%.

Still, combining the two appears to have the worst results.

“The risk from driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of either alone,” the authors of a 2009 review wrote in the American Journal of Addiction.

Several studies link alcohol with violence, particularly at home. That has not been found for cannabis

It’s impossible to say whether drinking alcohol or using marijuana causes violence, but several studies suggest a link between alcohol and violent behavior.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes, and a study of college students found that the rates of mental and physical abuse were higher on days when couples drank.

On the other hand, no such relationship appears to exist for cannabis. A recent study looking at cannabis use and intimate partner violence in the first decade of marriage found that marijuana users were significantly less likely to commit violence against a partner than those who did not use the drug.

Both drugs negatively affect your memory — but in different ways. These effects are the most common in heavy, frequent, or binge users

Both weed and alcohol temporarily impair memory, and alcohol can cause blackouts by rendering the brain incapable of forming memories. The most severe long-term effects are seen in heavy, chronic, or binge users who begin using in their teens.

Studies have found that these effects can persist for several weeks after stopping marijuana use. There may also be a link between daily weed use and poorer verbal memory in adults who start smoking at a young age.

Chronic drinkers display reductions in memory, attention, and planning, as well as impaired emotional processes and social cognition — and these can persist even after years of abstinence.

Both drugs are linked with an increased risk of psychiatric disease. For weed users, psychosis and schizophrenia are the main concern; with booze, it’s depression and anxiety

The largest review of marijuana studies found substantial evidence of an increased risk among frequent marijuana users of developing schizophrenia — something that studies have shown is a particular concern for people already at risk.

Weed can also trigger temporary feelings of paranoia and hostility, but it’s not yet clear whether those symptoms are linked with an increased risk of long-term psychosis.

On the other hand, self-harm and suicide are much more common among people who binge drink or drink frequently. But scientists have had a hard time deciphering whether excessive alcohol use causes depression and anxiety or whether people with depression and anxiety drink in an attempt to relieve those symptoms.

Alcohol appears to be linked more closely with weight gain, despite weed’s tendency to trigger the munchies

Weed gives you the munchies. It makes you hungry, reduces the natural signals of fullness, and may even temporarily make food taste better.

But despite eating over 600 extra calories when smoking, marijuana users generally don’t have higher body-mass indexes. In fact, studies suggest that regular smokers have a slightly reduced risk of obesity.

Alcohol, on the other hand, appears to be linked with weight gain. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who drank heavily had a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Plus, alcohol itself is caloric: A can of beer has roughly 150 calories, and a glass of wine has about 120.

All things considered, alcohol’s effects seem markedly more extreme — and riskier — than marijuana’s

When it comes to addiction profiles and risk of death or overdose combined with ties to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol.

Still, because of marijuana’s largely illegal status, long-term studies on all its health effects have been limited — meaning more research is needed.

Read more:

Read the original article on Business Insider UK. © 2016. Follow Business Insider UK on Twitter.

1 /3 Which is worse for you: weed or alcohol?

Which is worse for you: weed or alcohol?

Which is worse for you: weed or alcohol?

Which is worse for you: weed or alcohol?

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Which is worse for you: weed or whiskey?

Canadians complain about cannabis prices, but they’re higher in the U.S. Here’s why

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Canadians are used to the idea that most things are cheaper in the U.S.: clothes, cars, appliances, cigarettes, alcohol. Shifts in the exchange rate lead to waves of cross-border shopping, usually in one direction.

There are, however, a tiny number of exceptions: pharmaceutical drugs, for one.

While prices vary a bit by state, it turns out that weed is consistently more expensive in the U.S. — in states where it is legal — than it is in Canada.

Unlike Canada, U.S. states and the federal government both have their own sets of criminal laws.

And when they contradict each other, things get messy. Cannabis is a great example.

While several states have legalized cannabis, it’s still federally illegal, which complicates the U.S. cannabis economy in many ways.

Because cannabis can’t legally cross state lines, any state that’s legalized has to have its own completely self-contained cannabis economy, which leads to endless inefficiencies.

“If there’s a surplus, you can’t ship it to another state,” says Brock University business professor Michael Armstrong.

“Even the companies that are operating nationally are really collections of state organizations. They have to have production independently in each state, and retailers independently in each state. They can have management co-ordinated across the country, but all the operations have to be state-by-state.”

Armstrong points to an extreme example of the problem: a cannabis store that opened not long ago on Nantucket, an island that’s part of Massachusetts.

Since water and air transport are federally controlled, the store has to grow all its own cannabis — and make all the products it wants to sell, like edibles, on-site.

Massachusetts state officials require producers to submit cannabis samples for testing, but allow the Nantucket site to submit soil samples instead, since the cannabis itself can’t be legally shipped off the island any more than it can be legally shipped to it.

Not surprisingly, the store’s dried flower is the most expensive we could find in America, at US$20 a gram, or C$26.22.

Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, has an ongoing debate about legalization. If it did legalize, the tiny state would have to have its own closed cannabis economy, with no supply from next-door Massachusetts, which legalized in 2016. Nor could they buy any from Oregon, though that state has overproduced cannabis to such an extreme that it’s ended up with a seven-year supply.

By U.S. standards, Canada’s cannabis is a bargain

The lowest-priced dry flower from five Canadian public-sector sites Global News looked at starts just under $7 in non-bulk sizes, with a few a little below that point. Quebec has a handful under $6.

Ontario and Quebec offer a 28-gram bag of dried flower from Hexo. In Quebec, the price per gram works out to $4.49, and in Ontario it’s $5.

We looked for the least expensive dry flower at dispensaries across the U.S. Here’s what we found.

All measurements are in metric, and all dollar amounts are Canadian, converted from the original U.S. prices on Dec. 17.

Michigan

  • Greenstone Provisions, Ann Arbor, Mich.: dried flower in the cheapest category starts at $13.11 a gram

Massachusetts

  • Insa in Salem, Mass.: dried flower starts at $19.67 a gram

Colorado

  • TweedLeaf Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colo., is more reasonable, starting at $9.18 a gram
  • Euflora, a statewide chain, has nothing under $14.79 a gram

California

  • Torrey Holistics in San Diego, Calif., starts at $13.11 a gram

Oregon

  • Oregon Weedery in Portland, Ore.: three kinds of dried flower at $10.49 a gram
  • Green Health in Eugene has one strain at $6.56 a gram

Washington

  • Ranier Cannabis: $39.34 for 3.5 g, which works out to $11.24 a gram
  • Green Collar Cannabis in Tacoma, Wash.: cheapest dried flower are six varieties at $9.18 a gram, then another six at $10.49 a gram
  • Hashtag Cannabis, Redmond: starts at $12.46 a gram

Nevada

  • Planet 13 in Las Vegas, Nev.: starts at $59 for 3.5 grams, which is $12.85 a gram
  • Essence Cannabis Dispensary: three types of dried flower at $11.80 a gram, up from there
  • Las Vegas Releaf: starts at $17.05 a gram, $51.14 for 3.5 grams, which is $11.14 a gram

Deepak Anand, CEO of Materia Ventures, a cannabis supply and distribution company, noticed the price difference in Las Vegas recently.

“I visited Planet 13, which is a fairly large dispensary,” he says. “The prices that I saw for products were insanely high, on both THC and CBD products, compared to Canada.”

“Granted, Las Vegas is probably catering to predominantly a tourist market, prices are artificially inflated and that doesn’t necessarily reflect what happens in the rest of the state, in places that are not frequented by visitors, but I thought prices were significantly higher, compared to Canadian prices.”

Federal illegality complicates how these businesses are run, Armstrong says. And unavoidably, the extra costs drive up prices.

“They don’t have bank accounts. They have to store cash in a safe on the premises or elsewhere,” he says. “That can add to the security costs. Producers don’t like to disclose their production locations. If something gets stolen, there’s no insurance coverage. If you go bankrupt, there’s no bankruptcy protection.”

“If you can’t get access to the stock market, you’ll have to raise money other ways, which will be more expensive. That will add financing costs.”

Reliance on cash attracts violent crime. In 2016, a security guard at a Denver dispensary was shot dead during a robbery. The victim’s mother, and a security company that specializes in protecting cannabis businesses, both blamed the cash-based nature of the industry, the Denver Post reported.

“The fact that you have to deal in cash, and pay your taxes in cash, can’t write off expenses, are all challenges that they face in the U.S.,” Anand says.

Anand points out that cannabis testing standards differ by state, making compliance much more complicated for companies than if there was a uniform national system, as in Canada.

State and federal regulators disagree about what claims can be made about CBD, leaving companies caught in the middle.

“You’ve got a state regulator that says, ‘Yes, you can launch these products,’ and you’ve got a federal regulator saying, ‘No, we’re going to shut you down,’” Anand says. “Whereas in Canada, it’s one level of approval. You’ve got the federal approval, and that’s all you need.”

Canadians are used to the idea that most things are cheaper in the U.S., but there's a surprising exception: cannabis.