Comment history

Marijuana is gateway drug for many — not all — users

Regarding "addiction". Cannabis does not cause a physical addiction like alcohol and hard drugs. It can be habit forming for a small percentage. That's it. The cannabinoid that gets one "high" is in fact one of the therapeutic substances in cannabis, THC. For years the FDA has had a synthetic prescription version of THC available called Marinol. It is not nearly as well tolerated or as effective as the natural plant. It lacks dozens of other therapeutically active compounds found in the plant.

Research has found that different cannabinoids work well for different conditions. It is also found that the ratio of these cannabinoids, including THC and CBD are also important. Charlotte's Web for example, does contain some THC and other cannabinoids, and may be more effective in preventing seizures than pure CBD. Also a recent study [Marcu et al. 2010] found that THC and CBD work synergistically in fighting brain cancer.

Submitting anything derived from cannabis to the FDA is fought tooth and nail. Judging from the way things have been in the past decades, it would be decades more before all these cannabinoids with their synergistic effects would be approved for use. The DEA, FDA and NIDA use sneaky tactics to block any research into the positive effects of cannabis (see "Why It's So Hard For Scientists To Study Medical Marijuana" from 4/18/2013 on PopSci).

Let's let doctors decide what treatment is best for patients rather than politicians, legalize the entire plant.

Dependency rates of common substances:

Tobacco 32%
Caffeine 30% [Catherine et al. 2011]
Heroin 23%
Cocaine 17%
Alcohol 15%
Antianxiety Meds 9%
Cannabis 9%

Anthony et al. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 1994.

"Compared to most other drugs … dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare."
"A distinctive marijuana and THC withdrawal syndrome has been identified, but it is mild and subtle compared with the profound physical syndrome of alcohol or heroin withdrawal."
Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.

Dr. Jack E. Henningfield and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz created a chart in 1994 ranking the relative addictive potential of heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and caffeine. Cannabis was ranked lower than caffeine for most categories. Cannabis was ranked lower than all of them for withdrawal, reinforcement, tolerance, and dependence.

May 26, 2014 at 9:59 p.m. suggest removal

Marijuana is gateway drug for many — not all — users

"Marijuana destroys the lungs just as smoking cigarettes does, and no one has ever said that it is better to smoke cigarettes than marijuana "


Cannabis smoke does not appear to be a significant cause of lung cancer or serious lung disease. Besides, it does not need to be smoked, it can be cooked into foods or vaporized as well. Legalization makes these methods more accessible.

In 2013 the International Lung Cancer Consortium found no significant additional lung cancer risk in tobacco users who also smoked cannabis. Nor did they find an increased risk in cannabis smokers who did not use tobacco. They concluded that "Our pooled results showed no significant association between the intensity, duration, or cumulative consumption of cannabis smoke and the risk of lung cancer overall or in never smokers."
Zhang et al. Cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk: pooled analysis in the International Lung Cancer Consortium. Cancer Research. 2013.

"On the other hand, habitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function when assessed either cross-sectionally or longitudinally, except for possible increases in lung volumes and modest increases in airway resistance of unclear clinical significance."
"findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use, although evidence is mixed concerning possible carcinogenic risks of heavy, long-term use."
"In summary, the accumulated weight of evidence implies far lower risks for pulmonary complications of even regular heavy use of marijuana compared with the grave pulmonary consequences of tobacco."
Tashkin. Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2013.

"analyses of pulmonary function and lung disease have failed to detect clear adverse effects of marijuana use on pulmonary function"
Pletcher et al. Association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 years. JAMA. 2012.

Regardless, even if smoking it did increase the risk of lung cancer, this would not be a valid reason to criminalize millions of Americans for using it. Also, there are many peer-reviewed studies showing that the cannabinoids contained in cannabis, especially THC and CBD, actually directly fight tumors both by reducing their ability to spread and shrinking them. Considering this, it is very plausible that increased cannabis use will not lead to significantly increased cancer incidence and may even reduce it.

May 26, 2014 at 9:52 p.m. suggest removal

Marijuana is gateway drug for many — not all — users

The gateway drug theory, that cannabis use itself leads to the use of hard drugs, has been discredited by peer reviewed studies. If cannabis prohibition achieves anything in regard to this, it creates a "gateway" by redirecting cannabis users to buy from the same underground markets that supply, and sometimes push truly dangerous drugs such as cocaine, meth, and heroin. The continued prohibition of cannabis places a very popular substance into these markets, greatly strengthening these hard drug markets and their reach. Also, with no legal recourse to resolve disputes, cannabis prohibition greatly increases the crime associated with these markets.

"Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, usually before they are of legal age."
"There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular physiological effect...Instead, the legal status of marijuana makes it a gateway drug."
Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.

"No gateway effect is required to explain [marijuana's alleged gateway effects]"
Morral et al. Reassessing the marijuana gateway effect. Drug Policy Research Center, RAND. Addiction. 2002.

"Rather than supporting the interpretation that earlier marijuana use "triggers" later hard drug use, these results suggest that the longitudinal pattern of drug use that has been interpreted as the "gateway effect" might be better conceptualized as a genetically influenced developmental trajectory."
Cleveland HH & Wiebe RP. Understanding the association between adolescent marijuana use and later serious drug use: gateway effect or developmental trajectory? Dev Psychopathol. 2008.

"These data suggest that rather than acting as a gateway to other drugs, (which many had also tried), cannabis has been exerting a beneficial influence on most."
O'Connell TJ & Bou-Matar CB. Long term marijuana users seeking medical cannabis in California (2001–2007): demographics, social characteristics, patterns of cannabis and other drug use of 4117 applicants. Harm Reduction Journal. 2007.

"MMLs [medical marijuana laws] had no discernible impact on hard drug use in either age group."
Wen et al. The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana, Alcohol, and Hard Drug Use. The National Bureau of Economic Research. 2014.

In addition, anti-hard drug education is undermined when it becomes clear to students that they were, for the most part, lied to about cannabis. They assume there is no more truth to the claims about hard drugs than there is about cannabis.

May 26, 2014 at 1:57 p.m. suggest removal