Is Raw Milk More Dangerous Than Weed?

Is Raw Milk More Dangerous Than Weed?

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This post was originally published on February 3, 2015.

Americans have shackled themselves with all sorts of dietary restrictions—or dietary preferences—without really knowing all the information. See Jimmy Kimmel’s bit where he goes around and asks people if they eat gluten—many say no, but can’t define what gluten is. In case you’re wondering, gluten is a protein that emerges when you mix a wheat-based flour with water.

Oklahoma State University’s recent Food Demand Survey reveals how ignorant most Americans are about many things they put into their bodies, not just gluten. But even more surprising (maybe), is that they favor legalizing weed more than legalizing raw milk.

Good Bacteria or Bad Bacteria?

So what’s the deal with raw milk? Many health nuts and foodies claim raw milk is far more beneficial to our bodies than pasteurized milk. Pasteurization means heating milk up to 161 degrees Fahrenheit over and over and over to kill out toxic pathogens. Right now, there’s no federal regulation on raw milk, and it’s been banned from major grocery store chains like Whole Foods. But it is legal in certain states, and in these states there are regulations and oversights to ensure safe production and distribution.

Supposedly, raw milk offers the same probiotics you’ll find in a cup of Fage yogurt, kefir or a bottle of Kombucha. Probiotics generate microrganisms or “good bacteria” that promote a healthy digestive system. But if the bacteria go sour, which can happen easily if you don’t keep raw milk properly chilled or if you get a bad batch, you risk coming down with a gnarly gastrointestinal infection. Think Monteczuma’s revenge.

While bad bacterias like campylobacter and salmonella might give you a bad case of diarrhea and barfing, you are just as likely to come down with these from bad eggs or poultry. True, there is an ecoli strain that can cause serious havoc–E.coli O157:H7 can lead to severe consequences like losing a kidney or even death. But this is extremely rare. Only .0001 percent of raw milk drinkers come down with this annually. Those are pretty low odds.

Good THC or Bad THC?

Only 46 percent of those surveyed supported a ban on marijuana. The risks of smoking a joint aren’t well-known amongst 12-year-olds (or perhaps even 22-year-olds) but they are scientifically proven. Still, the issue is hotly debated.

Some scientists argue that THC, the drug in present in weed, is responsible for all types of cognitive defectiveness. Not only can it cause paranoia while you smoke it—you think the CIA is after you so you put up black sheets on the windows, yeah, fun times—but it also can trigger severe mental illness like schizophrenia. (Some researchers say this only occurs when the psychiatric illness is incipient and therefore the person is predisposed.)

And if you’re a daily pothead, all that THC can dumb down your intelligence, render your thinking slow and lead to forgetfulness. Remember when you were high and you stopped mid-sentence, unable to retrieve the word you uttered one second earlier? This is especially true if you start hitting the bong at a young age and continue throughout adolescence.

Not a Hard Choice

So when you weigh a small chance of getting gastrointestinal infections from drinking raw milk against permanent cognitive damage from hitting the bong, the latter seems a bit more petrifying. With the majority of Americans relatively ignorant on all things related to food safety, and with the majority favoring the legalization of weed, it’s not too big a surprise that they would rather see orange-cranberry space cakes on the shelf at the local Trader Joe’s instead of raw chocolate-hazelnut milk.

We’re guessing the chocolate-hazelnut milk might be a safer way to go.

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Tracy Chabala

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Masters in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.