Much of the medical marijuana discussion has focused on the safety of marijuana compared to the safety of FDA-approved drugs. ProCon.org sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find the number of deaths caused by marijuana compared to the number of deaths caused by 17 FDA-approved drugs. Twelve of these FDA-approved drugs were chosen because they are commonly prescribed in place of medical marijuana, while the remaining five FDA-approved drugs were randomly selected because they are widely used and recognized by the general public.

Jan. 1, 1997 was chosen as the starting date of the study because it is the beginning of the first year following the Nov. 1996 approval of the first state medical marijuana laws (such as California’s Proposition 215).

Summary of Deaths by Drug Classification (Jan. 1, 1997 to June 30, 2005)
DRUG CLASSIFICATION
Specific
Drugs per
Category
Primary
Suspect of the Death
Secondary Suspect(Contributing to death)
Total Deaths Reported
1/1/97 – 6/30/05
A. MARIJUANA
also known as: Cannabis sativa L

Marijuana
Cannabis
Cannabinoids

0
279
279
B. ANTI-EMETICS
(used to treat vomiting)
196
429
625
C. ANTI-SPASMODICS
(used to treat muscle spasms)
118
56
174
D. ANTI-PSYCHOTICS
(used to treat psychosis)
1,593
702
2,295
E. OTHER POPULAR DRUGS
(used to treat various conditions including ADD, depression, narcolepsy, erectile dysfunction, and pain)
8,101
492
8,593
F. TOTALS of A-E
Number
of Drugs
in Total
Primary
Suspect of the Death
Secondary Suspect(Contributing to death)
Total Deaths Reported
1/1/97 – 6/30/05
  • TOTAL DEATHS FROM MARIJUANA
1
0
279
279
  • TOTAL DEATHS FROM 17 FDA-APPROVED DRUGS
17
10,008
1,679
11,687

 

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