The marijuana market was nearly as large as the opiate market in 2016 and resulted in 0 overdose deaths. By the end of 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia will allow legal sales of marijuana, 8 of these states allow recreational marijuana sales. In 2016, the national market for marijuana was nearly $7 billion, according to Arcview Market Research Group. The opioid market was slightly larger at $10 billion in the US last year. In 2016, marijuana was responsible for 0 overdose deaths while opioids killed more than 20,000 Americans.
The 1960s drug culture is largely thought to have spawned legislation aimed at reducing American Drug Use. Created in 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act created 5 schedules for drugs. These schedules ranked drugs based on their potential for abuse, accepted medical uses and perceived safety under medical care. Marijuana was scheduled alongside heroin and other drugs on Schedule 1, the most dangerous drugs. According to the legislation, Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse, no or few medical uses and a lack of safety. Below, you will see the the overdose related deaths of three drugs, heroin, marijuana both schedule 1 drugs and prescription opioids, schedule II drugs that include oxycontin and the like.
As can be seen in the figure, heroin and opioid drugs are not safe, killing 10,000s of American each year. According to the DEA, Marijuana use has resulted in 0 overdose deaths, see data here. Since 2000, heroin deaths are up 600% and prescription opioid deaths are up more than 300%.