Separating Fact from Fiction
Viewing Marijuana Through an Evidence-Based Lens
Marijuana is arguably the most controversial substance in our society today. On one side of the debate is the argument that it is a harmless drug that should be legalized for both recreational and medicinal purposes while opponents argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no place in our society at all. As is the case with most hotly debated topics, facts and opinions get mixed together to form biased statements that each side uses to try and sway people to share their beliefs. This article is going to focus on three statements made by marijuana proponents, and will look at what evidence-based research has found in response to those statements.
Let's begin this discussion with a statement that is brought to almost every debate: marijuana is not addictive. A study cited by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 3 in 10 marijuana users have marijuana use disorder while another study estimated that cannabis users have a 10% likelihood of becoming addicted. Marijuana or Cannabis Use Disorder is defined by the CDC as a disorder in which people "are unable to stop using marijuana even though it's causing health or social problems in their lives." Studies have also found that the risk of developing marijuana use disorder is increased in those who started using marijuana in youth or adolescence as well as those who use marijuana more frequently.
The next argument we are going to look at is: marijuana users are clogging our prisons. This is one of the main arguments made when states consider legalizing marijuana. About two million people are currently incarcerated in the U.S. according to The Sentencing Project. The Bureau of Justice Statistics released findings from a survey showing that 0.7% of all state inmates were sentenced for marijuana possession only, and that 0.1 percent of all state prisoners were marijuana-possession offenders with no prior sentences. The number of people incarcerated is staggering, but to claim that prisons are full mostly due to marijuana being illegal is hyperbolic.
The final argument we are going to look at is: marijuana is medicine. This might be the most controversial statement in the current discussion on marijuana. Marijuana does contain some medicinal components, but more research still needs to be done to see the full extent of what marijuana can do. A bill was passed in November of 2022 that will make this research easier to do. There are currently four FDA-approved medications that are derived from marijuana, and none of these medications are smoked or vaporized. This is important to remember because some people argue that the only way to get the medical benefits of marijuana is to smoke or vaporize the drug. This is not true, and there are no medications or medical treatments that are smoked or vaped. The marijuana as medicine debate is in the spotlight right now, and only evidence-based research will be able to provide the answers that everyone is seeking.
This is just three of the many arguments that are made in support of legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Evidence-based research has responses to nearly every argument that can be made, and the research does a great job of separating fact from fiction. The importance of the new marijuana research bill should not be understated. Researchers will be looking at how marijuana can impact modern medicine, and will also be able to do more in-depth research on the physical and mental health consequences of misusing marijuana. The marijuana debate keeps getting more heated, and now you have some evidence-based answers for discussions you may have in the future.
To see more evidence-based responses to pro-marijuana arguments check out this link. Please visit the sources listed below for more information and research.