Latest survey figures show cannabis use up, and alcohol use down, among teenagers. This led the New York Times to run a typically pointless “debate” on the pseudo-question “Should Teenagers Get High Instead of Drunk”?
That might be a sensible question if we knew, or had strong reason to believe, that the two drugs are mutual substitutes. But the research results are mixed, with as much evidence of complementarity as of substitution. (There’s no reason to think that the answer will be the same across populations, or that the long-run answer will be the same as the short-run answer.)
I’m with Robert Gable in thinking that on most dimensions alcohol is by far the more dangerous of the two, though not in thinking that the risk of fatal overdose is the best measure of overall danger. But unless cannabis substitutes for alcohol, finding that it’s safer than alcohol has no obvious policy implication.