under federal law cannabis is still illegal mainly because of the scary myths, long engrained in the social consciousness. Recent research has undermined the reasons for criminalizing cannabis. Modern anti-legalization campaigners may sound more reasonable however on close examination their claims are as flimsy as Anslinger’s were.
- 1 Marihuana causes Crime
Alcohol prohibition taught America that a ban on a product leads to crime, rather than the product itself. Objective research studies do not find any relationship between marihuana and crime. One study published in the PLOS One journal, discovered that crime rates, in those states which made marihuana legal for medical use between 1990 and 2006, actually remained stable or actually went down.Another research study considered the London Borough of Lambeth, where as an experiment over 13 months during 2001/2002, the police stopped concentrating on arresting people for possession of cannabis. Crime rates in Lambeth actually decreased because police officers were able to concentrate on other crimes.
- 2 Cannabis is a Gateway to hard drugs
Those, opposed to legalizing cannabis, falsely claim that although cannabis is not very bad for your health, using it means that you will move on to hard drugs, such as heroin. It is true that most hard drug users have used cannabis and alcohol before using hard drugs, that fact alone does not prove any causal relationship.
Research studies do not find any such relationship. A RAND Institute research study of data collected between 1982 and 1994 discovered that drug use patterns in American young people were due to circumstantial factors rather than the gateway effect. Various peer reviewed studies published since support the RAND study’s basic findings.
In Holland, where cannabis has been legal for Dutch citizens since 1976, a RAND study did not find any relationship between cannabis use and hard drug use. Actually, the study found that, because the Dutch legislation required that users go to special coffee houses to buy cannabis, rather than to a drug dealer, legalizing marihuana had likely led to reduced hard drugs use rates.
- 3 Cannabis does not have a medical use
United States’ Legislation lists cannabis as a schedule I substance, implying that it is dangerous and without medical efficacy. However, today almost 50% of US states have legalized marihuana for medical use and many others are likely to do so in the near future. Cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating several medical conditions, including seizures, glaucoma, and the side effects of chemotherapy. While all this is known and documented, marihuana is still classified as a schedule I drug according to United States law form the major obstacle to reform.
- 4 Cannabis is addictive
This seems at first sight to be good sense surely if alcohol, tobacco and cocaine are all addictive cannabis must be too. Studies would seem to say that cannabis is far less addictive than other substances. The most commonly quoted study found that just 4% of Americans aged 15 to 54 are cannabis dependent, 24% of Americans are tobacco dependent and 14% are alcohol dependent. Among cannabis users the study found that 9% of those had tried cannabis became addicted, as compared to 32% of those who try tobacco and 15% of those who try alcohol. So there is some propensity for cannabis users to become dependent, but it is a small proportion and most users do not develop an addictive habit and the addictive rate is very much lower than that of drugs that are legal. Plus it seems that the 9% figure is likely to be wrong, since the questions asked were ambiguous and the measurement used was somewhat arbitrary.
- 5 Cannabis makes its users lazy
A study compared those who smoked cannabis daily to others who never use it. They found no difference in motivation between the two groups. Laziness as a trait was no higher in either group.
There is so much research data and information available. The cannabis plant has legitimate medical uses. Cannabis does not inextricably lead to crime or hard drugs. It is not addictive and does not make users lazy. So what is the argument for prohibition? Perhaps it is time to discuss the subject properly, without quoting the old myths. Legalizing cannabis would, overnight, sever its connection with organized crime, grant easy access to those who use it medicinally, boost government revenues since if it were legal the government could tax it, and boost the American economy.
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