Research into the health effects of marijuana is still in its infancy.
The question of whether alcohol or marijuana is worse for health is being debated once again, this time, sparked by comments that President Barack Obama made in a recent interview with The New Yorker magazine.
"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," Obama said during the interview. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
But how apt is the comparison between these substances? While both are intoxicants used recreationally, their legality, patterns of use and long-term effects on the body make the two drugs difficult to compare.
Both alcohol consumption and pot smoking can take a toll on the body, showing both short- and long-term health effects, though alcohol has been linked to some 88,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC, while for a number of reasons those associated with marijuana use are harder to come by. And research into marijuana's health effects is still in its infancy, compared with the rigorous studies looking at alcohol and human health.
Short-term health consequences
Drinking too much alcohol can quickly kill a person. The inability to metabolize alcohol as quickly as it is consumed can lead to a buildup of alcohol in the brain that shuts down areas necessary for survival, such as those involved with heartbeat and respiration. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]
"You can die binge-drinking five minutes after you've been exposed to alcohol. That isn't going to happen with marijuana," said Ruben Baler, a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The impact of marijuana use is much subtler."