Health

Study: Scientists Bust Marijuana Myths And Tell Politicians To Stop Scaremongering

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Marijuana is not a gateway drug and legalization does not result in a massive spike in cannabis use, according to the International Centre For Science In Drug Policy (ICSDP).

ICSDP released two papers Tuesday examining the state of the evidence surrounding marijuana use and regulation. The first paper serves to debunk a host of common claims made against cannabis use and legalization. The second seeks to guide the public on how to use evidence when talking about cannabis.

One of the myths ICSDP tackles is the claim that cannabis is a gateway drug. The evidence thus far points out that cannabis does precede the use of other illicit substances, but there is no causal link between marijuana use and the use of harder drugs.

Furthermore, the claim that smoking weed can lower your IQ by as much as eight points has been revised and abandoned. The authors of one of the most frequently cited papers linking marijuana to falling IQ revised their data in 2013 and found that socio-economic status was better explanation for IQ decline. (RELATED: Teen Marijuana Use Has No Link To Mental Health Problems)

“Worse still is the fact that a false claim like ‘cannabis is as addictive as heroin’ is reported as front page news,” said Dr. Carl Hart, professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Columbia University.

“The evidence tells us that less than 1 in 10 people who use cannabis across their lifetime become dependent, whereas the lifetime probability of becoming heroin-dependent is closer to 1 in 4.”

ICSDP is a network of scientists from around the world who work on drug policy. “We are at a critical juncture, as more and more jurisdictions are reconsidering their policies on cannabis,” said Dr. Dan Werb, director of the ICSDP.

“Yet, the public discourse around cannabis is filled with frequently repeated claims that are simply not supported by the scientific evidence. Given that policy decisions are influenced by public opinion and media reports, there is a serious danger that misrepresenting the evidence on cannabis will lead to ineffective or harmful policy.”

ICSDP isn’t just focusing on tearing down myths about marijuana use. With weed now legal in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington D.C. the report argues the dire warnings of skyrocketing marijuana use prior to legalization have failed to materialize.

“Over three decades of drug law enforcement, there is no evidence to suggest that the availability of cannabis has declined,” the report says. Looking to at evidence collected from around the world legalization appears to have a marginal impact on drug prevalence.

The U.S. is one of the top countries in the world for drug use despite having a strong anti-drug policy in most states. However, the Netherlands has relatively low drug use, especially among young people. This is despite a relaxed policy toward marijuana use.

The World Health Organization found that countries with tough anti-drugs policy didn’t see lower drug use compared to countries with a more liberal approach, such as Portugal.

ICSDS and their colleagues hope their reports will serve as a guide for policy makers. “With a growing body of evidence from more and more places reforming their drug laws, it is time our leaders stopped scare-mongering and came clean with the public about the facts when it comes to regulating cannabis,” said Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at the UK-based Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

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