In this June 19, 2014 photo, freshly packaged cannabis-infused peanut butter cookies are prepared for casing. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In 2014, a college student vacationing in Colorado ate a marijuana cookie and several hours later jumped to his death from a hotel balcony. The tragedy served as, among other things, a reminder that ingesting marijuana is an inherently less predictable experience than smoking it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a brief examining the case. It doesn't tell us anything we don't already know -- it ends with nothing more than a call for "improved public health messaging to reduce the risk for overconsumption of THC," the active ingredient in marijuana. But that hasn't stopped a slew of new news articles describing the "chilling details" of the so-called "marijuana overdose."

But "overdose" isn't the issue here -- tellingly, the CDC brief doesn't use the word at all. The Colorado student didn't OD on weed; he jumped to his death after consuming it. People aren't thought to overdose on marijuana; in fact, marijuana has no known lethal dose. On the other hand, alcohol poisoning kills over 2,200 Americans each year, according to the CDC.


So it's important to keep these stories in perspective. As marijuana becomes legalized and more inexperienced users try it, some of them will inevitably do stupid things. Some of these stupid things will end in tragedy. But the overwhelming consensus among public health researchers is that marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol. If you want to get the most bang from your public health buck, the evidence suggests you should work to reduce alcohol consumption.