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‘Gateway drug’ rallying cry of opposition to legalization


While polling suggest that 60 percent of American's favor legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, there is nonetheless significant opposition to the change.

The new attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, recently declared that marijuana was “only slightly less awful” than heroin. And he has reminded states that distributing marijuana remains a federal crime throughout the United States.

Citing increased youth marijuana use, health concerns, increases in parent “abuse,” marijuana related workplace issues and more, anti-legalization advocates cite studies and expert testimonials to support their view that marijuana is a dangerous drug.

In Michigan, opposition forces are few, at the moment. A Macomb County group, Mobilizing Michigan: Protecting Our Kids from Marijuana” is warning on its fledgling website that with “all of the of the talk about medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana for “recreational” purposes in the media and in public discussion, there seems to be very little focus on the many negative consequences of youth use.”

It references information from organizations like the Partnership for Drug Free Kids (www.drugfree.org) and the National Institute for Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov) to support its views.

NIDA cites marijuana as a commonly abused drug with short- and long-term health issues, among them, lowered reaction time, problems with balance and coordination, increased heart rate and appetite, problems with learning and memory, hallucinations, anxiety and psychosis.

National groups like Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM) oppose any state law that attempted to undermine the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which treats marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, in the same class as heroin, LSD, Quaaludes and Ecstasy. It campaigned hard and lost in California and has mounted anti-marijuana movements in other states.

CALM cites, for example, a damning report on marijuana from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (not to be confused with the National Academy of Science) that finds little therapeutic benefits from cannabis and that use may affect mental health, increase the risk of developing substance dependence, affect memory and attention and result in lower birthrates for babies whose mother smoked marijuana during pregnancy.

But both opponents and supporters of legalizing marijuana find ample support for their positions.

A report by Arcview, a leading marijuana marketing research company, counters the view oft shared by critics of legalization that it is a gateway to harder drugs.

It cites the annual Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Department of Health and Human Service, which it said showed that “even as adult use rose in Colorado in the first two years of legal sales, teen use of cannabis declined.”

It referenced a published study in an American Public Health Association publication that linked a decline in traffic fatalities with legalized medical and recreational marijuana. Another study in the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that overdoses from opioid painkillers was nearly 25 percent lower in states that permitted medical marijuana.


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