When asked about his stance on marijuana at a weekend campaign event, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave this measured response: "Tobacco is a product that does a lot of damage. Marijuana is infinitely worse and it's something that we do not want to encourage."
He then doubled down his comments, referring to "overwhelming and growing scientific and medical evidence about the bad long-term effects of marijuana."
People who are anal about things like science might be tempted to point out that this claim is essentially baseless. In terms of metrics, cigarettes cause much more harm to Canadians than marijuana, accounting for 30,000-40,000 deaths per year (weed has not been directly linked to death). And speaking of metrics, a fact checker could argue that because there are plenty of measurable ways to determine the negative impacts of weed versus cigarettes, the comparison is technically finite, contrary to what the PM suggests.
But we're not here to nitpick. When you discount trivial factors like illness and addiction and look at things that really matter—avoiding the munchies and the convenience of not having to roll anything—Harper is totally on point. The following list proves that weed is definitively, "infinitely" worse than tobacco.
It won't get you laid
Unlike far better vices such as smoking and drinking alcohol, weed is a terrible social lubricant. Even non-smokers can see that, at parties, the smoke pit is an easy place to pick up. There are fewer people, and they tend to be chill, so you have better odds of striking up a conversation. Conversely, you're unlikely to emerge from the depths of a THC-induced haze with anything witty or particularly charming to say, if you manage to form words at all. At a shitty-movie-viewing party with a crush, I once became so trapped in my own head that I agonized for 15-20 minutes over each sarcastic comment I wanted to make about Piranha 3D—a film in which a man's penis gets bitten off by a fish. Finally, one my pals called me out. "What the hell is wrong with you? You haven't said a word in two hours," he asked. It's a situation that could've easily been avoided had I taken Harper's advice and swapped the bong for Benson & Hedges.
You waste money on things you won't remember
A few years back, Lauryn Hill did a comeback tour during the Rock the Bells hip-hop festival. The lineup also included Wu-Tang Clan and a Tribe Called Quest, so my friend and I flew from Vancouver to San Francisco to watch it. As soon as we got to the venue, we smoked two blunts and ate a brownie each. Before the openers were through, we had passed out hard. A stranger sitting nearby tried shaking us awake—he'd overheard us joking earlier about how moronic it would be if we came all this way and missed Lauryn Hill. I remember looking at him, confused and glassy-eyed, shrugging and going right back to sleep.
Effectively, we spent $600 each to take a four-hour nap. I wish I could say this was a one-off, but I've slept through plenty of other shows baked and basically don't remember the plots of any movies I watched between 2005-2010. Nicotine, on the other hand, acts as a stimulant. Like a gift that keeps on giving, it can keep you awake for hours and has even been linked to chronic sleep disorders.
Dealers are annoying
"Be there in 15," he says, and an hour later you're still loitering inside the entrance of the bank, where the ATM machines and sleeping homeless people are, because it's cold as balls outside and his silver SUV is nowhere in sight. If you're lucky, you can text your guy exactly what you want, but chances are you've had at least one asshole that demands the use of code words like "yoghurt" (it means an eighth, apparently). Because people asking for "yoghurt" in the middle of the night is not at all suspect. You finally see his extremely late ass and, even though you're pissed, you're forced to play nice because he is your only hope of getting high. Then he hands over the stuff in a goddamn napkin ensuring that everything in your bag will reek. You arrive at home fairly confident that, even if he's your friend, he probably just ripped you off. Bottom line: Even the nicest dealers are a solid downgrade from the average 7-Eleven.
Too many fucking strains
After years of self-medicating with weed, you might come into contact with a dealer whose wares are a bit more lavish than the napkin-wrapped variety. He's the kind of dude who doesn't get out of bed for less than a half ounce and insists you exclusively use a third-party messaging app like Signal to contact him. (He still takes approximately four times as long as he was supposed to even though he has no real job—this is never going to change, sorry.) You're finally coming closing in on your precious herb when he presents you with your options: "Now I have some of that Blue Tuna Crush, Dark Forest, or Ice Bomb, but it really depends on if you're looking for a sativa or an indica. They're all different prices, of course." As you try to puzzle out to yourself whether this dreadlocked, Birkenstock-wearing man is talking about Pokémon moves or cannabis strains, you probably are wishing that you only had to decide between regular, king size, or menthol.
There's no quality control
If you ever found a stem or a seed in your cigarette, admit it, you would be fucking pissed. But for some reason, in the world of selling and purchasing weed, this is something that happens more than occasionally—at least when you try to pick up a dime in your hometown before gorging on Thanksgiving dinner. After figuring out that your old pot dealer went to jail for selling meth, you call up your best friend's little brother who was in middle school last you knew; he pulls up in a rusted Toyota Corolla and charges you $20 instead of $10 for seedy, stale, under-count shake. At least with cigarettes, the only time the price increases is when the fucking government mandates it.
Fuck, it's 10 AM and my apartment building neighbors are going to think I'm an absolute degenerate if any of them wait for the elevator with me, you think to yourself after making the poor decision to wake and bake on a weekday. You try to convince yourself that you're just being paranoid but your bloodshot red eyes and the odor emanating from you—a mix of skunk and french fry oil—isn't helping. Smelling like an ashtray first thing in the morning after your morning Canadian Classic? Totally normal, pedestrian behavior.
All of this is worse than lung cancer.
(Top photo via Flickr user Raquel Baranow)