Marijuana legalization has NOT led to more drug or alcohol abuse

Traditionally, there has always been a certain type of stigma associated with cannabis usage. A negative stereotype reinforced by Hollywood depicted marijuana as a drug that was either associated with increased crime and harder drugs or else a plaything for adolescents and unproductive people who would not contribute anything to society.

The Marijuana Myth

One myth associated with cannabis which can be put to rest is that it leads to more drug and alcohol abuse. The idea was that they would go hand in hand.One of the main reasons cited for an ongoing crack on marijuana by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to harder substances. However, recent research indicates the exact opposite; Marijuana is actually a gateway drug away from other harmful substances. One current area of interest is that it lessens the dependency of opiate addiction. In all states, following legalization there has been a drop in opiate prescriptions. As an added bonus, upon legalization of marijuana in states, traffic accidents and road fatalities go down. This has happened in nearly all states.

Liberalized marijuana laws appear to have little positive or negative impact, according to a new working paper by researchers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Harvard University and Western Carolina University. In fact, more liberal marijuana laws have had “minimal impact” on marijuana use, other substance use, alcohol consumption or crime rates, the study found. The paper, which was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, based its findings on data from the annual surveys of high-school seniors conducted by Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of American youth that began in 1975.

One of the strongest arguments against marijuana is that more people are addicted to marijuana than any other drug. Some say that aside from alcohol, 60% of all substance addiction disorders in America are linked to marijuana. But the takeaway is that alcohol is legal, and with no medical benefits whatsoever. And it would be interesting to understand what constitutes “addiction”. Many people simply like beer and marijuana. Are people also addicted to water, coffee and porridge if they have them every day?

The” Gateway” Drug

The reason that liberalized marijuana laws have no effect may not be because of the drug itself. It appears that people simply smoke marijuana regardless of whether it is allowed or not. And this is obviously true, as there are significant proportions of people who smoke marijuana. It is estimated to be a $50 billion industry in total, with the majority of these sales being made up in the black market. With this in mind, it makes sense to tax and regulate, killing off the black market and ensuring that the quality of the marijuana supplied is the highest that it can be. The researchers also point out that the liberalization of marijuana laws appear to have reduced the amount of cocaine and heroin use, yet another study contradicting the popular myth that marijuana is a gateway drug.

However, the researchers did unearth some negative societal implications. One is that there is a definite uptick in the ease of procurement (note: not the consumption of) psychedelics and amphetamines. And there was also a slight increase in shoplifting and petty crimes following marijuana legalization. However other studies have indicated that certain types of theft rise in the aftermath of the shutting down of medical dispensaries, so there could be some fuzziness with these findings. In terms of the medical benefits of cannabis the results of the study are in line with existing research. Marijuana is an effective treatment for chronic pain, insomnia, epilepsy and other conditions.

Since the 1970s, forty-five states and the District of Columbia have loosened their marijuana laws. Most of these states have either decriminalized possession of marijuana or legalized its use for medical purposes — only 8 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational use. Last week, the U.S. House rules committee blocked an amendment that would protect medical marijuana patients, and in recent months Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated a willingness to go after businesses and individuals involved in the cannabis industry in states where it is legal for medical or recreational use.

Societal Implications

It goes without saying that marijuana is a wonderful form of holistic treatment for a variety of conditions. It will most certainly not lead to more drug or alcohol abuse, in fact it will lead to the opposite. To say that marijuana legalization has led to more drug and alcohol abuse goes against the majority of all available data. As marijuana legalization continues we can expect drug and alcohol abuse to decline, as has happened in the past. This is not to say that marijuana legalization is not without its fair share of problems. In fact, it has proven to be laden with societal complications that are proving to be a huge burden in places such as Canada, which is having considerable trouble getting the legislation in place in time for the legalization deadline next July.