Commentary

Mariah Sanderson: Evidence points to marijuana as gateway drug

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mariah Sanderson, of Essex Junction, who is the director of the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community, a substance abuse prevention coalition in Burlington, and a Steering Committee member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Vermont. She is the mother of two.

Proponents of marijuana legalization have a history of trying to normalize marijuana use and distract voters from its harmful effects by touting its supposed benefits. Remember how medical marijuana was supposed to cure cancer, along with most other known diseases?

Now we’re being told that marijuana will end the opiate crisis. Unfortunately, the evidence this time is just as slim as it was before.

There is a well-known link between marijuana and opiates – and also tobacco, alcohol and other addictive substances. Survey after survey, for year after year, has shown that people who use one of these drugs are more likely to use at least one of the other drugs.

The effect is also dose-dependent: heavy users of one drug are more likely to be heavy users of one or more other drugs. Infrequent users are less likely to be co-users.

These data give rise to the chicken-and-egg question of which drug came first, and this leads to the next question: Is one of these drugs a more powerful inducement to co-use than any other drug? Is there a gateway drug?

There is some evidence from studies with humans that marijuana use is more likely to lead the use of other drugs. A Canadian study found that more young people tried marijuana first, and that almost 50 percent of the co-users started with marijuana – but most young people who have used a substance try marijuana, alcohol and tobacco around the same time, so more research is needed. It is also consistent with animal experiments showing THC’s ability to “prime” the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs.

Rat research has shown that marijuana and opiates use some of the same brain pathways involved in addiction, and that marijuana use sensitizes this pathway in a way that makes individuals who try opiates after marijuana more likely to want more, and that this craving passes from parent to child.

Another rat study indicated that this sensitization is transmitted from grandparent to grandchild, even if the middle-generation parents never used marijuana or opiates. If these results hold true in further research, we’ve found an epigenetic effect, which is truly scary.

Will addicts easily give up one of these drugs for another that’s less deadly?

 

Another indirect indicator that marijuana might have some level of gateway effect can be found in the Colorado results of the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Looking at the use rate rankings for Past Year Nonmedical Use of Painkillers in the 12+ age range (i.e, everyone), and comparing 2013 to 2014, we see that Colorado jumped from 12th highest in the nation to second highest in the nation. At the same time, Colorado’s marijuana use rate rose from second highest to number one.

These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” However, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs and are, like marijuana, also generally used before a person advances to other, more immediately harmful substances. So we can say that starting to use one drug makes you more likely to start using another drug, but more research is definitely needed.

In terms of the opiate crisis, a more important question would be: Will addicts easily give up one of these drugs for another that’s less deadly? The word “easily” is key. The fact that so many heavy users are co-users of several drugs illustrates how tightly these drug addiction systems are intertwined.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that opiate users will use marijuana to try to stave off withdrawal symptoms and cravings. For some, marijuana merely helps them sustain their addiction. Relapse rates for both drugs are tragically high.

There is no question that opiates kill more of their users than marijuana does, but marijuana does kill, through traffic accidents, suicides and accidental deaths. A U.S. study released just this month strongly supports an earlier French study indicating that marijuana use is also involved in strokes and cardiovascular deaths.

For some, marijuana use has led to psychosis, including schizophrenia, and worsens other mental health problems, all at a much greater rate than opiates.

So the question becomes do we want to make it easier for addicts to get a substance that could provide temporary relief but help maintain their addiction, while still putting them at some risk for death and greater risk for mental health and heart problems? Or instead, would our state be better served to put more money and effort into improving and expanding our addiction and substance abuse treatment systems and into prevention efforts that recognize that marijuana and other substance use has ill effects on health and should be discouraged.

Because the fact is, they’re all gateway drugs.


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  • Skyler Bailey

    I agree. But not only that, do we want to give the state a vested interest in the creation and maintenance of a cohort of taxpaying habitual marijuana-users? Do we want the state in a position where it is purposefully trying to protect and expand a revenue stream that relies on this? They are already on record as stating that they don’t want to raise the smoking age to 21 (it is not my intent to take a position on that here) because it will hurt revenue.

  • JohnGreenberg

    By the same reasoning (and surely the same surveys), milk is a gateway drug. Virtually very opiate user first used milk.

    • Bob Orleck

      “Another rat study indicated that this sensitization is transmitted from grandparent to grandchild, even if the middle-generation parents never used marijuana or opiates. If these results hold true in further research, we’ve found an epigenetic effect, which is truly scary.”

      I have been aware of discussions on epigenetics but had not really focused on it much with addiction to drugs and the ability to pass that to future generations. I want to know more about this and will read up on it. Thank you for bringing me to this point of wanting to understand the possibilities.

      Our epigenome may be the reason for increased opiate and other addictive behaviors that seem to be epidemic and increasing with each new generation. In every community there is at least one family where all or most of the members exhibit the same negative addictive behaviors, whether it be to drugs or other anti-social behaviors. All you need hear is the last name of that family and the issue populates in your brain. .It is as if they are sentenced to have the same problem as their parent or grandparent. Much more serious consideration should be given to this area of science.

      Mariah, there are people who do not even want to consider this. They don’t want to understand, accept as possible or even read about epigenetics because it does not fill the need for their self-indulgent, selfish narrative. Maybe that marker that has been turned on by marijuana triggers an automatic denial response like “ milk is a gateway drug since all drug users started with milk.” If my theory has any validity then maybe that is why pro-pot advocates refuse to look at proven facts about marijuana like that it kills people on highways by drugged drivers, damages children’s brains and worsens mental health conditions.

      Surely a well-functioning inquiring mind would want to know but maybe those who won’t just can’t because they are programmed. Now that is scary and of course I am being a bit silly here with my theory, but it is troubling that no matter how well an argument is presented and backed up with authorities, there are people incapable of no more that name calling, stupid analogies and worn out clichés regarding this dangerous, addicting gateway drug.

      Thanks for thoughtful article. Keep up the good work you do!

      • JohnGreenberg

        Bob Orleck (and Mariah Sanderson):

        If you’re going to rely on a study, please provide either a title or a link.

        Bob’s comments suggest the POSSIBILITY of epigenetic transmission, but totally ignore the far higher probability fo environmental conditioning.

        My milk example was facetious, but if you’re really looking for precursor drugs, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. They’re all legal. They all impact the brain. They’re all addictive. And again, virtually all opiate addicts have most likely used one or all of them, because even more than marijuana, they’re all in common use in our society.

        • Bob Orleck

          You are missing the whole point and you should try reading a bit about it. Your argument backs up exactly what we are saying.

          • robert bristow-johnson

            No, Bob. You’re missing John’s point.

            It is nothing but silly to label cannabis as a “gateway drug” any more than caffeine, sugar, nicotine, or ethyl alcohol.

            heck, i’m really hooked on animal fat, especially that combined with nitrates. maybe i’ll fire up my bacon fix right now.

          • Glenn Thompson

            “It is nothing but silly to label cannabis as a “gateway drug”

            So….you are going to go on record claiming you know of no one who started out on Pot and moved on to more powerful substances to get a bigger and quicker High? You must not get out much?

          • David Bell

            Glenn,

            Something does not become a gateway drug if even a single human being who has used it moves on to use “a more powerful substance”.

            As Robert pointed out, this would make both sugar and caffeine “gateway drugs”.

          • robert bristow-johnson

            i know of no one, personally, who is on “more powerful substances”. i imagine there is someone i know, but i don’t know anyone whom it is clear is using opiates or methamphetamine. i don’t know anyone with MDMA or LSD. (but i know people who like to drink alcohol and people who like to smoke weed, and sometimes those two groups intersect.)

            but, even if i were to grant you that “everyone on more powerful substances have used pot in their past before their first use of the more powerful substances”, i can also say that replacing “pot” with “sugar” or “caffeine” or “ethyl alcohol”.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Bob Orleck:

            If you want me to ” try reading a bit about it,” how about providing the link I just asked you for.

            As to missing the point, please explain what you think I missed.

          • Bob Orleck

            Simple: Just Google “epigenetics” and read to your heart’s content.

          • JohnGreenberg

            No, Bob Orleck, it’s not that simple.
            There is a vast literature on epigenetics (19.8 MILLION Google hits), but your claim is that the epigenetic literature supports your notion that cannabis is a gateway drug.

            You made a specific claim: “Our epigenome may be the reason for increased opiate and other addictive behaviors ….” which was accompanied by an attack on those who dare to dissent: ” there are people who do not even want to consider this.”

            I’m perfectly happy to “consider” it if you provide me with specific articles. I have no interest in a research project on epigenetics in general, fascinating as that may be.

      • Dave Silberman

        The fundamental flaw in rat drug studies, including Dr. Hurd’s study that you are referring to (I wonder whether you’ve actually really looked into it, since neither you nor the author has provided an actual citation), is that the studies give the subject rats are given only two choices: (a) take the available drug, and (b) stand in the empty cage, alone, and do nothing.

        But it turns out that when you give lab rats companionship and games to play, their drug consumption plummets — they choose sex and recreation over drugs. This is kind of old news, with the seminal research having been done almost 40 years ago, and confirmed over and over since. See Alexander, B.K., Coambs, R.B. & Hadaway, P.F. Psychopharmacology (1978) 58: 175.

    • Neil Johnson

      Problem is young kids use the argument for justifying what the want to do. So I’ll smoke this weekend hang out with my friends and play video games.

      I’ve seen it, foster kids failing in school, put in a home where they weren’t allowed to smoke pot and guess what happens? Miraculously they are getting better grades and have a bit more focus. I’ve had many friends smoke and drink with abandon and be ok, settle down a bit. I’ve also seen so many ruin their lives.

      It’s interesting that rarely does either side admit that ANY point the other is making has some merit, which will keep us from coming together.

  • Paul Hannan

    …and 100% of those junkies started on milk…

  • bobstannard

    I’ve spent the last 6 weeks recovering from knee surgery. During this time I’ve watched more TV than I have in the past 6 years. When one binge-watches TV here’s what you learn; we are a nation of drug dependent, over-weight gun junkies. About every 10 minutes we’re told about some drug with a new, sexy name and that we should run to our doctor to see if we need to take it. Well, we probably walk, because we’re all 30 lbs overweight. Heaven forbid that on our way to our totally unnecessary doctor’s app’t we should get cut off in traffic for fear of yanking out our gun and shooting the offender.

    Legalizing pot will not change anyone’s behavior. Those who use it today will use it tomorrow; those who don’t, won’t. The biggest problem I can see is that if we legalize it those drug companies spending 10’s of millions of dollars on ads can’t control the sale. There’s your real problem, folks.

    • Bob Orleck

      “Legalizing pot will not change anyone’s behavior. Those who use it today will use it tomorrow; those who don’t, won’t. The biggest problem I can see is that if we legalize it those drug companies spending 10’s of millions of dollars on ads can’t control the sale. There’s your real problem, folks.”

      I am trying to figure out what you are saying here, Bob. I have most often thought your liberal analysis of things was way off base but this i. Legalizing will lead to big business controlling the sales in stores and advertising and just why do you think business advertise? They statement is the best of your worst. To advertise is to increase sales and busiesses won’t do that unless it does. So you are wrong that it won’t change behavior. How much of that time watching TV were you bombarded by advertisements? Surely they must believe they will reach foks like you to buy their product.

      If marijuana is legalized then you are into First Amendment and other legal issues regarding their rights to advertise. Just think of the big tobacco industry that took over 30 years to tame and it is still killing people and doing advertising that will kill more. Marijuana is now a billion dollar industry just because it has been legalized.

      The “real problem” is that people for self-indulgent selfish reasons want to engage in this mind-altering experience legally regardless of the death on the highwys it caues, the damage it does to children and the mentally ill. That is the real problem.

      Pot advocates are engaging in what I call reverse reefer madness.

      • Dave Silberman

        You keep saying that legalizing will “cause” things like increased teen use, and increased deaths on the highways, but the actual data shows that you are wrong, and in fact teen use has not increased following legalization, anywhere, and drugged driving deaths have not increased following legalization, anywhere.

        Repeating a falsehood over and over does not make it true. Ignoring the data does not make it go away.

        But go on and repeat the falsehoods.

      • John Klar

        Where are the highway deaths? Alcohol is legal, and drunks kill thousands. Alcohol is the gateway drug, and Prohibition failed. Prohibition of weed while alcohol is legal is absurd. And prohibition of weed has failed already; encourages illegal trafficking; and is used to expand the Police State.

      • Jason Brisson

        “The “real problem” is that people for self-indulgent selfish reasons want to engage in this mind-altering experience legally”
        Why do you need feel the need to control what other people do with their own bodies, legal or not?
        “regardless of the death on the highwys it caues, the damage it does to children and the mentally ill. That is the real problem.”
        Repeating this over and over again does not make it true, it makes it propaganda.
        “Pot advocates are engaging in what I call reverse reefer madness.” Cannabis advocates are engaging in meaningful dialogue that supports their position, not sensationalizing outdated government propaganda.

      • bobstannard

        As I understand the bill, Mr. Orleck, it’s simply legalizing (vs decriminalizing) pot. No one’s talking about selling it. I think a lot more people die each year from drunk drivers vs stoned drivers. You might want to look that up and if it’s true then perhaps you can organize a campaign to ban alcohol. The problem that i have with this entire debate is the hypocrisy. For some reason the legal selling booze and tobacco poses no problem for our society, but legal selling pot does. Pretty silly when you think about it.

        What it really amounts to is personal responsibility. IMHO if you’re an obnoxious drunk or an obnoxious stoner you’re still obnoxious. Although I will say that over the past 65 years I’ve seen a LOT more obnoxious drunks. The whole “gateway” argument is also bunk. Just because a person has a beer does not mean that person will become an alcoholic any more than if someone smokes pot they’ll become a heroin addict. Jeez, people…come on now.

    • Matt Young

      And if some wacko pulls out a gun and randomly opens fire I bet you will be hiding behind the law abiding, gun carrying citizen who will readily defend you.

      • bobstannard

        What are you talking about?

    • Dave Silberman

      Bob, I recommend you take a look at H490, a bill that has not gotten any traction this session but which would seek to regulate and tax the existing commercial marijuana market (some $200 million per year is spent on marijuana in VT). H490 would take several steps to control corporate greed, including by barring monopolization of the market — a person or company could only own a single licensed retail location, and a single licensed cultivation facility (which would be limited in size as well). Majority in-state ownership and control would be required. And the bill includes Constitutionally permissible “time, place, and manner” restrictions on advertising. Meanwhile, Federal law prohibits the airing of marijuana advertising on television in any event (as well as print advertisements that are delivered via mail, which includes most newspapers).

      All that being said, the bill actually being considered by the legislature (H170) doesn’t permit sales at all, it merely reduces penalties for personal possession and growing one or two plants for one’s own use in one’s backyard.

  • R.J. Adler

    Well then we should never introduce Marijuana into our society- how terrible!

    Oh wait… You mean we already have rampant marijuana use in our society? Oh, well in that case I guess we just need a better way to manage it than prohibition. Marijuana is a gateway drug if the same dealer you buy it from peddles you heavy drugs during the same sale. That’s not going to happen at a legal dispensary.

    Or maybe we should prohibit every addictive substance? Remember when we did that in the 20s with alcohol and how much it supported organized crime- kinda like what we are doing with marijuana now?

  • Neil Johnson

    Our state is desperate to adopt some “sexy legislation”, it’s been awhile. Balancing budgets, setting priorities to solve problems, adopting an ethics commission is boring. The sad part is everyone will rabidly discount actual work done with those who become addicted to drugs. Most people don’t become addicted to higher forms of drugs, but those that due cost themselves, families, neighbors and the state massive disruption and create a major financial crisis on top of that. Generations are born addicted to powerful drugs.

    All the time the legalization side screams, 100% of junkies started out on milk! This discounts the fact the I’ve yet to hear someone say. “You know what, I had a really crappy week, I think I’m going to shoot up some heroin tonight”, without having done any other drugs prior to this.

    Not legalizing , but not giving jail sentences might sent the proper cautionary notice that certain paths can lead to serious problems.

    • David Bell

      ‘All the time the legalization side screams, 100% of junkies started out
      on milk! This discounts the fact the I’ve yet to hear someone say. “You
      know what, I had a really crappy week, I think I’m going to shoot up
      some heroin tonight”, without having done any other drugs prior to this.’

      What point are you trying to make here?

      Whether legislation is “sexy” or not is irrelevant; if it is a good idea it should be adopted, if not it should not be adopted.

      A law that acknowledges the fact that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, will increase revenue to the state and attract business is good.

      “Not legalizing , but not giving jail sentences might sent the proper
      cautionary notice that certain paths can lead to serious problems.”

      Do you support the same of both alcohol and tobacco?

      • Neil Johnson

        I am safer driving 85 mph on the highway sober than anyone who might be smoking and driving, stoned and driving or slightly buzzed and driving the speed limit. Why can’t I drive 85? I’d be safer than all these people on the road by multiples.

        And yes I would support the same for alcohol and tobacco. My family and close friends have had lives shortened by lung cancer and alcoholism. The carnage is massive. I realize it would never happen for these products, when you watch someone die from smoking, due to COPD, lung cancer at 50 you’ll better understand. Statistics show that average life expectancy for someone who smokes and drinks is 10 years less.

        Why be so cavalier with drugs? I drink, I’ve had way too much to drink many times in my life. Have I had 3 drinks in the last 6 months, maybe. Do I need it to be happy and content? Nope…

        • David Bell

          ” Why can’t I drive 85?”

          Because it is demonstrably less safe to do so; same reason you can’t drink or smoke. Your false dichotomy would only make sense if you could in fact do those things.

          “And yes I would support the same for alcohol and tobacco.”

          Well, I disagree with you, but you are definitely not being hypocritical, which I appreciate.

          “Statistics show that average life expectancy for someone who smokes and drinks is 10 years less.”

          Smoking tobacco you have a point, mild to moderate drinking, no. There is evidence red wine for example can improve longevity in small amounts.

          What you need or want is not the issue, I like chocolate, if my blood sugar or weight become an issue I will need to cut back. I will not demand certain types of chocolate be made illegal.

          “when you watch someone die from smoking, due to COPD, lung cancer at 50 you’ll better understand”

          I am sorry that happened to someone you know.

      • Glenn Thompson

        “A law that acknowledges the fact that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco,”

        You continue to put forward the same talking points without getting into any specifics? Again, explain to us how a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer is more harmful than inhaling Marijuana smoke into your lungs? You constantly complain about tobacco, but yet isn’t the similarity the same when inhaling either tobacco smoke or Marijuana into one’s lungs? There are countless studies out there that supports the claim that inhaling smoke of any kind into one’s lungs is not good for you? So why do you constantly make the same flawed arguments?

        • JohnGreenberg

          Glenn Thompson:
          “explain to us how a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer is more harmful than inhaling Marijuana smoke into your lungs?” If it’s one glass of wine or bottle of beer, what you say is likely to be true. I haven’t kept up with the literature, but the medical studies I read years ago suggested that one unit of alcohol per day actually extends life expectancy..

          The problem is that many folks don’t/can’t stop at one unit. And the literature also indicates exceedingly clearly that imbibiing more than 2 units a day is deleterious to health in many ways, and that the risks go up sharply as consumption increases.

          To show that David Bell’s argument is flawed (which it may well be — I haven’t researched pot), there are various questions, which boil down to 2:

          1) what are the risks from smoking one joint per day? More than one?
          2) How do these risks compare to drinking 1 unit a day? and more than one?

          One last thought. There is pretty clear evidence that alcohol can be addictive for many individuals. I gather that the evidence shows the opposite for marijuana: few, if any individuals are actually addicted to it. This matters, because in the questions above, the level of consumption matters greatly.

          • Glenn Thompson

            I believe we all can agree Alcohol and Pot effect the brain differently? We can also agree Pot stays in one’s body much longer than alcohol. Countless studies will show that! Comparing Pot to tobacco shows in both cases, one inhales smoke into one’s lungs. Plenty of studies out there shows that is not good for you. So the argument that tobacco is worst than inhaling Pot is not correct.

            This kind of articles are easy to find and there are a countless number of them. Here is one example!

            http://preventionpluswellness.com/2016/11/marijuana-safer-alcohol/

          • David Bell

            “Comparing Pot to tobacco shows in both cases, one inhales smoke into one’s lungs.”

            Which again, is like saying if you inject someone with saline it is no different from heroine, since both are injected into the blood stream.

            “Plenty of studies out there shows that is not good for you. So the
            argument that tobacco is worst than inhaling Pot is not correct.”

            Your first statement is not evidence to support the second. You actually have to show that tobacco is less damaging than cannabis, not that both are damaging for your second statement to be correct.

            As for your link, the first three studies it cites reference use of alcohol and cannabis, they do not control for only using one or the other.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Glenn Thompson:

            “Plenty of studies out there shows [sic] that is not good for you. So the argument that tobacco is worst than inhaling Pot is not correct.”

            “Not good” is pretty vague language, masking a pretty definitive difference: smoking marijuana doesn’t kill anyone; smoking tobacco kills millions. For those who survive, tobacco causes a veritable litany of extremely serious diseases – cancers, heart disease, emphysema, etc. – while marijuana doesn’t cause any.

            Such results do not suggest that marijuana use is harmless, but they sure do support the argument that tobacco use is far worse.

            “This kind of articles are [sic] easy to find and there are a countless number [sic] of them. Here is one example!”

            I looked at the first bullet point of your link. Here is its summary of a study: “Results showed that adolescents with higher alcohol use reported greater academic unpreparedness and delinquency, while adolescent with higher marijuana use reported greater academic unpreparedness and delinquency, as well as poorer academic performance and mental health.” It also links to the abstract of the study itself, which concludes: “Greater AM [alcohol and marijuana] use was associated with worse functioning in high school for all youth. After controlling for AM
            use, non-white youth reported worse outcomes in high school for academics and health.”

            I fail to see any equation between “poorer academic performance and mental health” for otherwise undefined “middle school students”
            and “non-white youth reported worse outcomes.”

            And nothing in the link provides ANY evidence that “So the argument that tobacco is worst than inhaling Pot is not correct.”

        • David Bell

          “Again, explain to us how a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer is more harmful than inhaling Marijuana smoke into your lungs?”

          Glenn, have you ever bothered reading any actual research on the subject? I am including one study below:

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311234/

          “You constantly complain about tobacco, but yet isn’t the similarity the
          same when inhaling either tobacco smoke or Marijuana into one’s lungs?”

          This is meaningless, it is like saying since both saline and heroine are introduced to the body via injection into the blood stream they must be basically the same. Are you going to make this claim as well?

          As John pointed out, for my argument to be flawed, you would actually have to show where my statements are incorrect, not just ask leading questions.

  • Norm Etkind

    “Remember how medical marijuana was supposed to cure cancer, along with most other known diseases? Now we’re being told that marijuana will end the opiate crisis.”

    Actually, the answer is NO. As far as I know, no credible source has ever said that marijuana will cure cancer and “most other known diseases” or end the opiate crisis.

    Posing the question in that manner alerts me to question the veracity of the rest of your statements.

    It is widely acknowledged, and I know from people I’ve spoken with, that marijuana is very helpful in treating nausea and other negative effects of cancer treatment. Also, some people are able to reduce (but not eliminate) the use of legal prescription pain medications by using marijuana.

    • Dave Silberman

      Exactly.

      It’s much easier to beat up a straw man than to argue the actual merits of prohibition.

    • Rick Landsman

      Absolutely. I dismissed her opinion as soon as I read the second sentence, “…. that marijuana will end the opiate crisis.” How condescending!

  • Dave Silberman

    “Smart Approaches to Marijuana” has failed to disclose that the biggest financial backers of its anti-legalization crusade are pharmaceutical manufacturers, alcohol manufacturers, and private prison companies. Think about the financial motivations here.

    That aside for a moment, the argument that “Smart Approaches to Marijuana” has been feeding us for years can be neatly summed up as “legalization will send a message to kids that pot use is OK, and then teen drug use will explode”.

    The problem with this argument is that we have decades of data showing that it’s bunk. The legal status of marijuana does not correlate with teen use rates — teen use has gone DOWN over the last 20 years as 29 states have implemented medical marijuana, 8 states have fully legalized, and criminal possession penalties have otherwise been reduced or eliminated in countless other cities and states.

    Teen use also does not correlate with “the message society spends”. Over the past 20 years, there has been a 30% decrease in the number of teens who think using marijuana is morally wrong, according to the national roll-up of all 50 states’ Youth Risk Behavior Survey (with hundreds of thousands of respondents annually). And yet over that period of time, teen use is DOWN.

    And even the DEA admits that there is no evidence behind the so-called “gateway drug theory”; the scientific consensus is that marijuana and other drug use are correlated only through a “common liability” — meaning that rather than use of one leading to another, in reality it is an underlying social/behavioral/psychological problem that, when left untreated, leads to use of multiple drugs as a form of self-medication.

    It’s time we stop the fear-mongering, and stop ignoring the facts in favor of a narrative that supports a negative moral judgment of “drug addicts”, as the author herself puts it. People suffering from addiction are not helped by stigmatization; they are helped by evidence-based harm reduction strategies.

    Contrary to the claims in this column, the evidence is extremely strong that safe and legal access to cannabis reduces: (1) prescription opioid use, (2) prescription opioid-linked drugged driving fatalities, (3) prescription opioid-related hospitalizations, and (4) both prescription opioid- and “street” opiate overdose deaths. And those benefits are accomplished WITHOUT a concomitant increase in marijuana-related social problems such as teen use or drugged driving.

  • Rick Cowan

    Although fear mongers like many of those posting here have predicted otherwise, the sky has not fallen in DC, Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts, Washington, Maine and many other states that have legalized. This Scientific American article documents how teen use has actually declined in Colorado: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/colorado-s-teen-marijuana-usage-dips-after-legalization/

    Time Magazine reports that the Trudeau government plans to legalize recreational use of cannabis in Canada as of July 1, 2018.

    The alcohol and opiod producers have “created and maintained” their tax-paying clientele. Volumes of research indicate that those substances are far more dangerous to individuals and society than marijuana.

    Our aging state is missing a great opportunity to provide jobs for talented young horticulturalists and to fund our increasing deficits.

  • John Klar

    Yet the State dispenses methadone, and its users are legally protected by anti-discrimination laws. Alcohol kills more people in a year than pot ever did — even this article repeats the claim that pot-smoking drivers kill people. Where is the evidence for that? Reefer Madness, alive and well. I don’t smoke pot, but I find it remarkable that Vermont would advocate imprisoning people for cannabis while it creates and peddles alcohol. Amazing hypocrisy. And it is easier to grow pot than ferment booze: if Prohibition of alcohol (the gateway drug) failed, what rational person thinks the continued failed Prohibition of cannabis will ever be anything than a continuing failure?

  • Jason Brisson

    Sugar and caffeine, the real gateway drugs people should be worried about with kids.

    • Neil Johnson

      Sugar, more deadly than anything we’ve been discussing.

      Grow your own, twelve plants, illegal for distribution, private use only, fine for public consumption, might solve everyone’s problems. Minors and those who supply, receive substantial fine.

      Would people agree to that? Nope it’s all about the money. People and state both want to be drug dealers.

      • robert bristow-johnson

        i used to think you were sorta Libertarian. and supportive of the free market.

  • Peter Everett

    Talk about being addictive, Tax increases every year, are one large addiction the VT Legislation has. Sad part is they won’t listen to their constituents and enter into a rehab program. The taxpayers are suffering, big time, because of their unnecessary addiction. Addicts never admit they have a problem until it’s too late.

  • Michael Hunt

    The only reason marijuana is a gateway drug is that it is classified in the same category as heroin and cocaine. Kids can see through the obvious lies about marijuana so why would they believe us when we tell them about other drugs. Lieing to the kids about soft drugs is not the way to get them to stay away from hard drugs.

  • rosemariejackowski

    13 people were just killed by a texting driver. When will we do something about that in Vermont ?

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-texas-bus-crash-texting-20170331-story.html

  • sandybettis

    Reefer madness.

  • sandybettis

    If this were a popular vote, it would have happened long ago. What happened to representative government?

  • sandybettis

    Let’s outlaw tobacco and alcohol too. Oh right – prohibition doesn’t work.