I’d always done a lot of sniffing glue as a kid. I was very interested in glue, and then I went to lager and speed, and I drifted into heroin because as a kid growing up everybody told me, ‘don’t smoke marijuana, it will kill you.
Irvine Welsh, novelist, playwright and short story writer and best known for his novel Trainspotting, which was later made into a film of the same name.
The above quote illustrates the importance of context. Those who oppose marijuana often — either deliberately or negligently — ignore context. Ignoring its medicinal qualities completely, cannabis saves lives.
How can this be? How can we claim that marijuana actually saves lives, separate and apart from its medicinal uses?
First, studies show that in states where cannabis is legal, deaths from pain-killers decline about 25%. This indicates people substitute cannabis for pain-killers and doing so reduces deaths from pain-killers. Since nobody dies from cannabis, it is fair to say that cannabis saves lives just by virtue of this switch, regardless of its efficacy in reducing pain.
Driving while stoned is a second great example. A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows driving while stoned is no riskier than driving while sober. That’s all well and good, but we would contend (and we believe future studies will show) that legalizing cannabis actually reduces traffic accidents and deaths. Cannabis reduces the number of people drinking and driving because some percentage of those who would have done this substitute cannabis for alcohol. This substitution of cannabis for alcohol should have a similar effect on drunk driving deaths and injuries as what has been shown by the substition of cannabis for pain-killers.
Cannabis will also probably be shown to reduce suicides as many swear by its ability to treat their depressions. Cannabis is weakening the power and finances of the cartels and by doing so it will likely eventually reduce deaths and injuries caused by the cartels. See Marijuana Legalization: Bad For The Cartels, Better For All. Legalizing cannabis increases government tax collections and those funds can and have gone to build better and safer roads (thus saving lives) and towards education (thus improving and saving lives).
We could go on and but we have made our point: any analysis of marijuana should be done in its full context.