Cannabis legalization, marijuana legalization, however you want to label it, has always been a contentious topic. Many people assume they know the truth about what will occur when and if legalization occurs. For this post, we decided to take a look at a couple of those myths, and see if there’s any data or information available that helps us get to the bottom of whether these myths are worth consideration, or just platitudes.
Myth: Legalization will lead to increases in use among underage segments
Truth: In every state where marijuana has been legalized, for recreational or medical use, there is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, so far the data suggests the opposite.
Myth: Marijuana is a gateway drug.
Truth: There have been many studies on this, and to date, there has been no substantial case built that this is the case. Alternatively, there’s not a lot out there that denies this to be the case. There is no definitive statistical connection that marijuana is, or is not a gateway drug. Safe to say that while the jury is still out, it’s most certainly not settled, and shouldn’t be considered as a fact.
Myth: Legalization leads to increases in marijuana related crimes
Truth: Nope. In multiple studies it’s been shown that the opposite is actually true. Here is a study that was actually funded by the federal government, that concluded legalization led to decreases in marijuana related crimes. This includes possession, distribution, sales, etc. In Washington there was an anomaly where trafficking arrests were at a steep increase, but that increase came with an equally as statistically significant number of cases being dismissed.
Myth: Traffic safety declines in states where marijuana is legalized
Truth: So far, in studies conducted, there is no statistical difference in traffic fatality rates in states after legalization. You can google this topic and find studies reporting the opposite, but it’s important to understand how these analyses are being put together. After legalization, Colorado did see an increase in traffic incidents, that’s true. Marijuana related traffic fatalities did increase. However, so did total traffic fatalities, and total vehicle miles traveled in general. More people are driving, fatality numbers increased overall, as a result you see increases in marijuana related fatalities, and non-marijuana related fatalities. These increases had more to do with an increased volume of vehicle miles driven than they did anything else.
Myth: Legalizing marijuana will lead to more marijuana use overall
Here we only focused on five items, but you can do the same with any other commonly believed (and now primarily disproven) arguments against legalization. The truth is, when you have laws in place people will break them, and when people break laws they are considered criminals. There have been a lot of laws revolving around cannabis for a long time, all of these laws created criminals. It has been long believed that these laws were necessary, and the myths and fears surrounding legalization encapsulate the sentiment behind why these laws existed in the first place. As legalization becomes the norm across a growing number of state governments, we are seeing that many of these assumptions are just incorrect.