Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has said, on more than one occasion, that legal prescription drugs statistically kill 100,000 Americans a year while there are no documented instances of deaths due to marijuana. Even if that is true, it may not have much impact on voters in states voting this fall on measures to permit medical or recreational use in their states.
Investigators at PolitiFact decided to check up on Johnson’s statement on the number of deaths related to prescription drugs compared with marijuana.
First, they found that a lethal overdose of marijuana would need to be at least 1,000 times the size of an effective dose (15 grams or so). Alcohol, by contrast, can be lethal at just 10 times an effective dose.
PolitiFact also noted U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency data reporting that no deaths from marijuana overdose have ever been reported. That does not mean that weed has not contributed to deaths from car crashes or adverse psychological effects.
Johnson’s claim of 100,000 deaths related to prescription drugs is based on a 1998 study that the National Institute for Drug Abuse told PolitiFact “was based on invalid calculations that overestimated the number of deaths.
Marijuana is far less toxic than many prescription painkillers, which kill tens of thousands of people every year. Marijuana has never killed anyone through overdose, but Johnson’s vague claim leaves out the crucial fact that marijuana has played a role in accidental deaths. And the number of prescription drug deaths isn’t estimated to be as high as Johnson said.
What You Need to Know about the 2016 Presidential Candidates’ Marijuana Views
The chatter of cannabis has grown a little louder on the U.S. campaign trail this season.
The leading third-party candidates have called for full marijuana legalization, while the nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties have broached the topic more frequently — now that half of the nation has medical marijuana laws in place, a handful of states have gone recreational and several others will have cannabis-related ballot initiatives this November.
“It has the capacity to become a very important issue,” said Andrew Schnackenberg, an assistant professor of strategic management at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. “It is a hotbed issue still, and you have at least two of the (presidential campaigns) on the record in favor of legalization, which pushes the debate into an interesting direction for the other two candidates (Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton).”
But just how prominent the topic may become this election likely will depend on whether the pro-legalization, third-party campaigns of Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein successfully make it to the debate stage, said Paul Seaborn, an assistant professor in the Daniels College of Business’ Department of Management.
Seaborn said he is doubtful that marijuana will play a direct role in the presidential election.
Read more at The Cannabist.