Myth: Pot is not safer than alcohol because it accumulates in the body over a long period of time.


The Truth: The myth is correct that evidence of pot stays in your body for longer than alcohol.  Alcohol’s active psychoactive ingredient, ethanol, is water-soluble while marijuana active components, the cannabinoids, are fat-soluble.  Ethanol is converted by the body almost immediately to acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen.  This is why you see studies finding such a strong association between even moderate alcohol use and cancer.  In short, just because alcohol is water-soluble and leaves the body rather quickly does not mean it is not harmful to health.

By contrast, cannabinoids are surprisingly non-toxic so their persistence in the body poses no serious threat to health.  In fact, it’s this slow half-life that likely prevents cannabis users from suffering from substantial abstinence symptoms (e.g., physical withdrawal) when they cease using it. Marijuana leaves no permanent traces in fat cells or any other part of the human body.

Of course, marijuana’s excretion pattern is hardly unique.  Plenty of other legal drugs, such as certain prescription steroids or even vitamin D, are fat-soluble and have similarly slow elimination times.  About the only serious downside of pot’s pharmacokinetics is that its presence can be detected on certain drugs tests for days and sometimes weeks after past use, making cannabis consumers far more susceptible to discrimination in the workplace.