Will Cannabis Still Be Labeled A Gateway Drug If It Becomes Federally Legal?

(Writer: Doug Quimby)

In recent years, marijuana has slowly been becoming legalized in certain states across the country. 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical use and 10 have legalized recreational use of the drug, with various regulations and restrictions. As weed grows in popularity we are finally able to accurately research its effects. It is coming to light that some of the things we were taught about the cannabis plant have either been wrong or based on ideas with no evidence. One of the most common arguments against the use of marijuana is that weed is a  “gateway drug”. This is the concept that once you start smoking it, you’re bound to move on to harder drugs. But if it’s legal and you can buy it at a store, will it still be seen as a gateway drug?

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Legalizing marijuana for recreational use involves the opening of dispensaries. These are places in which people can buy safe and regulated cannabis and become educated about the substance before they start using it. If someone is interested in smoking, they would typically have to seek out with people who they think are able to supply them with marijuana, These often unpredictable and unsafe situations can often lead to exposure to various types of drugs. The ability to purchase marijuana at a store would keep those curious about the benefit of marijuana out of these risky situations. Would it then, in turn, keep them from trying opioids and other addictive drugs?

The opioid epidemic has been going on for years now in the United States. While all states are experiencing tragic deaths from this crisis, a recent study showed that states that have passed laws regarding the use of cannabis recreationally have seen a decrease in the opioid-related deaths that have been devastating the nation for years. Doctors and patients in these states are starting to look to medical marijuana as pain relief instead of prescription painkillers which will decrease unnecessary exposure to opioids in youth and those who could easily become addicted. This is obviously a great step towards reducing the risk of opioid addiction. Unfortunately, in many states where medical marijuana is legal, recreational use is still a crime. This leaves many who try to get marijuana illegally still at risk of finding their way to an opioid addiction. Once marijuana is fully legal, will so many people continue to fall victim to opioids? Based on the information currently available, the answer is likely “no”. The stigma that labels marijuana a gateway drug may need to be forgotten.

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Being that legal marijuana is still in its early years, it’s hard to say the long-term effects it will have on social trends. We can hope that in the near future, we will see many benefits being reported by states who have legalized the recreational use of cannabis that will lead to a national shift. The opioid epidemic is a major problem, and this could be the solution. Marijuana may not be the big, bad villain we’ve been told to see it as. We have to look at the facts and put aside the stigma. It’s time to throw out our preconceived notions about this plant, and see what it has to offer.

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