The numbers are in, and it’s official: The death rate from marijuana overdoses didn’t budge in 2015.

Dead Body Toe TagActually, we lied. There are no new numbers. There is no need for daily or monthly or even yearly updates on deaths from cannabis use. Why? Because no one ever dies that way. The government really does track these things, but you don’t need official reports to understand cannabis has never killed anyone.

Many other drugs are deadly. Heroin overdoses kill more than 10,000 Americans each year, on top of 20,000 who die from legal opiates. Cocaine is responsible for about 5,000 deaths each year, while legal alcohol – the most popular intoxicant in the world – proves fatal to 30,000 people a year (more than 80,000 if car crashes are counted).

Alcohol and prescription drugs are most deadly

Legal prescription drugs, including opiate painkillers, lead to more than 25,000 lethal overdoses annually. That’s second only to alcohol, and it’s perhaps even more troubling, considering how easy it is for children to get into their parents’ medicine cabinets.

Take a look at these two graphs from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Number of annual deaths from prescription drugs

Number of deaths from presription opioid pain relievers

Granted, the developed world has only been keeping consistent records of these things for a few decades. Who knows how many people dropped dead from cirrhosis in the 17th century? But if all of recorded history is any guide, we have a pretty good idea how many people cannabis has killed in the last 5,000 years: none. There is not a single, credible recorded instance of it happening, ever.

Death from marijuana is practically impossible

Smoking Marijuana JointCannabis isn’t the only popular drug with a zero-kill rate. Many hallucinogens, including LSD and magic mushrooms, lack the potential to kill unless consumed in massive, unrealistic amounts. The same is true of pot – in theory you could smoke enough THC to do yourself in, but realistically you’d have to spark so much you’d green out hundreds of pounds short of the finish line.

There are all sorts of reasons we might want to ban a specific drug, but its tendency to kill should definitely top the list. By that standard, marijuana is the safest popular drug there is. A bad shroom trip could end with you running naked through traffic. Marijuana won’t even do that.

In other words, we should probably be putting more effort into protecting people from booze, smack, and hillbilly heroin than we put into stopping and punishing potheads. Even low-cost anti-tobacco efforts are likely to save many more lives, as cigarettes kill half a million Americans every year.

No doubt, government bureaucrats and public health experts are already busy gathering 2016 drug-death data in advance of the New Year. But until then, we’ll take it on faith the marijuana fatality rate won’t budge anytime soon.


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