America’s favorite hater, astrophysicist, and round-Earth defender Neil deGrasse Tyson has a chilled-out perspective on getting blazed. In a Facebook Live interview with Chuck Nice on Wednesday, Tyson was relayed a question submitted by Tom Angel, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, asking whether or not he shared the late Carl Sagan’s opinion that marijuana should be legalized. After a surprised laugh at the question, Tyson said, sure — if you consider marijuana compared to other things that are legal, he reasoned, it only makes sense.
“If you really analyze it, relative to other things that are legal, there’s no reason for it to ever have been made illegal in the system of laws,” said Tyson. “Alcohol is legal, and it can mess you up way more than smoking a few J’s.”
Besides sounding like, as Nice commented, someone who’s never actually smoked weed, Tyson has a point. Marijuana and alcohol are two substances that scientists have found can provide some benefits and cause a substantial amount of harm — only one is legal, while the other is still federally labeled as a Schedule 1 drug. This criminalization, largely thought to be a byproduct of racism that still disproportionately harms vulnerable communities today, isn’t rational when you compare the two substances. The rational thing to do, as Barack “Cool Dad” Obama also argued, is to treat the drugs the same.
While long-term marijuana use, though not completely understood by scientists, has been linked to a blunting of the brain’s dopamine system, alcohol is considered to be slightly more dangerous overall. For example, marijuana is considered to be less addictive than alcohol: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. In comparison, thirty percent of Americans either abuse alcohol or suffered from alcoholism at least once. This is most likely linked to the fact that most drinkers don’t realize that they are drinking more than they should; a study released in June showed that just moderate drinking could cause negative brain changes and accelerated cognitive decline.
Additionally, there is no scientific evidence linking marijuana to overdose fatalities. Excessive alcohol use, meanwhile, leads to approximately 88,000 deaths in the United States per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For people between the ages of 20 and 64, this means that one in 10 adults will die from excessive drinking each year.
That comparison is not to say that marijuana also has the potential to be abused. The mind-altering drug also impairs thinking, judgement, and coordination, which can lead to driving fatalities in a similar way that alcohol can. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that indulging in one can get you thrown in jail in some states, while enjoying the other is considered a regular night out with friends. Tyson may not have the correct take on every topic, but when it it comes to the legalization of marijuana, his facts are pretty dank.