Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Politicians’ Biggest Anti-Marijuana-Legalisation Talking Point Just Got Thoroughly Debunked: New Study

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A new study of the results of American semi-legalisation of marijuana suggests the notion that marijuana is a 'gateway drug' is little more than political fiction. As Brad Polumbo concludes in this guest post, however, to oppose the right of adults to decide for themselves, politicians will still resort to base scare tactics no matter how many studies debunk their false doomsday narratives.

Politicians’ Biggest Anti-Marijuana-Legalisation Talking Point Just Got Thoroughly Debunked: New Study

by Brad Polumbo

Politicians who defend criminalising recreational marijuana users have long riled up voters with dire warnings that the substance acts as a “gateway drug.” They insist that even if deaths directly caused by marijuana usage are virtually nonexistent, pot will nonetheless 'eventually' lead many users  to more dangerous drugs.

President Biden himself has long made this claim, stating in 2010 that “I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug.” Only in 2019, while campaigning for president, did Biden begin to walk back this position. Yet he still does not fully support federal marijuana legalisation. And the “gateway” position is still held by many other politicians clinging to their opposition to a widely popular legalisation movement. For example, Republican Congressman Andy Harris recently referred to marijuana as “a known gateway drug to opioid addiction” while arguing against legalisation. 

[And here in New Zealand, the recent referendum was confounded with the same fact-free assertion from politicians and their assorted supporters. - Ed.]

However, a new study suggests once again that the notion that marijuana is a “gateway drug” is little more than political fiction.

Economists examined the impact that recreational marijuana laws passed in 18 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have had on metrics key to the “gateway” narrative. The analysis is the first to “comprehensively examine the broader impacts of state recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) on a wide set of outcomes related to hard drug use, including illicit non-marijuana related consumption, drug-related arrests, arrests for property and violent offences, mortality due to drug-related overdoses, suicides, and admissions for drug addiction-related treatment.” 

And what did they find? Across four different nationwide databases, the researchers “find little consistent evidence” that recreational marijuana laws have gateway effects to hard drugs. Further, the study finds “little compelling evidence to suggest” that marijuana legalisation leads to more increases in drug use, more arrests for hard drug offences, drug overdoses, or admissions for drug addiction treatment.

They say there is even “suggestive evidence that legalising recreational marijuana reduces heroin- and other opioid-related mortality.” [Emphasis mine.] Ultimately, the authors conclude that critics' fear of marijuana’s supposed “gateway” effect appears “unfounded.”

Unfounded, indeed. But don’t expect critics to change their tune.

The argument for marijuana legalisation is, fundamentally, just an argument for personal choice and individual liberty. To oppose the right of people to decide for themselves, politicians must resort to scare tactics, no matter how many studies debunk their false doomsday narratives.

[Which means that here in New Zealand, as comedienne Michelle A'Court observed, even though the hypothesis that cannabis is a "gateway" to harder drugs has been debunked, it sure as heck remains a gateway to prison. - Ed.]

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Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and Policy Correspondent at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), where his post first appeared.


1 comment:

  1. I don't know about a gateway drug, but you smoke a couple of sticks a day for twenty years and then have a look around you. You might not notice, [and that tells us something in itself], but believe me everyone else will. It is not good for you.

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