There are two points of view about marijuana, Mark Kleiman explains:
One is that of all the illicit drugs, and of all the intoxicants including alcohol, marijuana is probably the least dangerous on a number of dimensions. Certainly, compared to alcohol, it is much less toxic and much less likely to lead to violence.
The other viewpoint is that marijuana is the illicit drug most likely to be used by juveniles, and that it is a much more dangerous drug than many people believe. In particular, it has a higher capture rate to addiction — a higher fraction of the people who use marijuana go on to use it heavily for a long time — than people give it credit for, though marijuana addiction is not, for most people, nearly as serious as chronic alcoholism can be.
So one point of view is why are we making this huge fuss about this relatively benign chemical? The other point of view is that eighth-graders shouldn’t be using intoxicants. Too many of them have now started to use marijuana, and General McCaffrey said the other month that the most dangerous drug in America is marijuana in the hands of a 14-year-old.
Keeping middle-class kids from drugs has always ranked very high among the goals of American drug policy. It’s never quite stated that way, but it’s their parents who are organized into a powerful political force.
So one group looks at the broader drug problem and says, “We ought to be concentrating on heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and on alcohol and nicotine.” And other people who say rising marijuana use among kids is a huge problem. It’s hard to find anybody who gets really worried about marijuana use by adults. That’s just not at the top of anybody’s list. But because it’s the most prevalent of the illicit drugs, especially among kids, it gets a lot of attention; maybe more than it deserves.