O’Reilly and Krauthammer began the segment about Washington’s and Colorado’s recent marijuana legalization laws in agreement, bemoaning together the lenient enforcement of the Washington law’s 21-or-older age limit.
But when O’Reilly began to hyperbolize, the harmony disappeared. “Once a child gets involved with intoxication of any kind…childhood is over, their whole life changes, and not for the better, and this is what’s happening in America,” O’Reilly said. Krauthammer responded by contrasting the risks of marijuana use with alcohol.
“Let me stipulate a couple of things,” he began. “Number one, alcohol is a lot worse. I’ve seen what it does as a doctor. It destroys the body — aggression, car accidents, a lot of damage. If I were starting a society from scratch and had to choose the intoxicant, I would outlaw alcohol and I’d allow marijuana. It’s benign compared to alcohol.”
The question is more complicated now, though, because alcohol is so ingrained in our culture, Krauthammer said, but he added that states are the right place to test for the effects of marijuana legalization, saying, “I do think that the states are the laboratories of democracy…in Washington and Colorado…we will see, as the social science comes in, has this had an effect on addiction to harder drugs, has this had an effect on auto accidents?”
Krauthammer is right that the risks and effects of marijuana are far less severe than those of other drugs. While alcohol kills 80,000 per in the U.S., tobacco kills 440,000, and legal pain killers kill 15,000. Meanwhile, it is “virtually impossible to overdose from marijuana” according to Brown University.
While Krauthammer wonders whether marijuana legalization will significantly increase the use of harder drugs, marijuana is not a gateway drug, even according to a government-commissioned Institute of Medicine report , and marijuana dependence is less severe than for other drugs including alcohol.
Video of the conversation between Krauthammer and O’Reily can be found here.