Universal Ethics > Wise Choices > Index > Marijuana

Marijuana (Cannabis)


The non-medical use of marijuana, typically by smoking it, has many risks and health consequences. Based on the evidence (presented below) it appears that the harm to society that is caused by recreational use of marijuana far outweighs any potential benefit.

Marijuana has not been widely used as long as tobacco and alcohol, so the long term impact is not as well established. Evidence available thus far indicates that it has similar health problems and risks as compared to those products together. Formerly treated as an illegal narcotic drug, in some parts of the world marijuana is now legal for adults to use, typically sold through licensed establishments so that sales can be taxed. This change in legal status didn't arise because politicians thought it was safe, but rather because its usage among the public had increased to a point where legal prohibition could not be practically enforced.

With all other kinds of drugs, the safety of the drug has to be proven before it can be sold, and if there are significant potential side effects it is sold only by prescription. The legal sale of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana is not consistent with that principle.

It is irrational to consume products that are not known to be safe, especially when there is significant evidence of harmful effects. However, societal fads are not always rational. Tobacco, for example, was suspected of being harmful as far back as the early 1800s, but yet the usage increased by the mid-1900s to the point where more than half of the North American adult population smoked. By then many of them were suffering a much shortened lifespan; only then were campaigns undertaken to inform the public and convince them to change their habits.

To make a wise choice, however, one doesn't rely on fads or wait for suffering to accumulate before making the best personal choice one can, based on the available evidence.

Associated Policy and Ideals

This recommendation is consistent with the healthy living policy. Healthy living supports the Healthy Body and Healthy Mind ideals.


Here are some links to web sites that have information about marijuana:

Overview of medical effects

National Institute on Drug Abuse


Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Effect on brain and brain development

Scientific American (December 2017)

Medical News today (November 2018)

Effect on lungs and breathing

American Lung Association

Effect on the heart

NBC News "Edible marijuana worries doctors after man suffers heart attack"

Journal of Thoracic Disease

Effect on unborn babies and newborns

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


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