Voters in Massachusetts will decide on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana this November. Opponents of the measure – Question 3 – recently held a rally to speak out against it. Their two biggest charges: that marijuana is addictive and leads to other drugs.

The problem of course is that neither of these allegations is true.

Marijuana use is not marijuana abuse. According to the US Institute of Medicine’s 1999 Report: “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” “Millions of Americans have tried marijuana, but most are not regular users, … [and] few marijuana users become dependent on it.” In fact, less than 10 percent of marijuana users ever exhibit symptoms of dependence (as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV criteria.) By comparison 15 percent of alcohol users, 17 percent of cocaine users, and a whopping 32 percent of cigarette smokers statistically exhibit symptoms of drug dependence.

What about marijuana leading to other drugs?

 According to the Canadian Senate’s 2002 study: “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy,” “Cannabis itself is not a cause of other drug use.” This finding concurs with the conclusions of the US National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine 1999 study, which stated that marijuana is not a “gateway drug to the extent that it is a cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.” (The IOM further noted that underage smoking and alcohol abuse typically precede marijuana use.) Statistically, for every 104 Americans who have tried marijuana, there is only one regular user of cocaine, and less than one user of heroin, according to annual data compiled by the federal National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

So all we have left are people who have the nerve to tell others what they can and cannot medicate with. Some would call it presumptuous to tell sick people what they are allowed to choose for relief, but sadly, some feel that is their right.

– Joe Klare

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