Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the most incorrect statement possible about drug policy.
Asked about the Conservative Party's opposition to marijuana legalization, Harper said, "Tobacco is a product that does a lot of damage. Marijuana is infinitely worse."
It's difficult to overstate just how wrong Harper is. Tobacco's health effects cause 37,000 deaths in Canada each year — an astonishing 17 percent of all deaths in the country. Cannabis, meanwhile, has never been conclusively linked to any deaths from direct health effects. Even the scientific evidence on whether pot causes lung damage when smoked is mixed, with studies that control for tobacco smoking finding no significant effect from cannabis on lung cancer risk.
One caveat: A very small number of people likely die due to accidents while under the effects of cannabis. But this data isn't reliably tracked, and there's still some debate about whether pot even significantly increases this risk.
Top 3 deadliest drugs
Of course, this is true not just in Canada, but in the US too. In fact, the top three deadliest drugs in the United States are legal: tobacco, alcohol, and opioid painkillers. Some of that, of course, is caused by their legality, which makes them more accessible and more widely used. But tobacco, in particular, is so deadly that it's unlikely anything would catch up to it even if all drugs were legalized.
Now, drugs carry dangers other than death. Cannabis' biggest risk is dependency and loss of productivity. But this is a fairly abstract risk — one that affects a minority of pot users (the heavy users). Tobacco, on the other hand, will almost certainly kill you or take years away from your life through long-term use. It is much, much worse than cannabis.