Legalizing Marijuana: Separating Fact from Fiction

In addition to choosing a president this November 8th nine states have marijuana legalization on the ballot this election day. Just like the presidential election, misinformation abounds when it comes to marijuana and the effects its legalization would have on the states considering it. Here are a few of the most common myths associated with marijuana legalization and the truths they’re hiding.

Myth: Only recreational smokers want to legalize marijuana.

Reality: Medical marijuana is an effective treatment for a wide variety of physical and psychological illnesses ranging from chronic pain to seizures to ongoing cancer treatment. In some cases, medical marijuana can also act as an effective alternative to prescription opioids, preventing patients from possible abuse or addiction. It is unethical for the medical community to let the public image of marijuana as a party drug distract from its medical benefits.

Myth: Legalizing marijuana will increase the overall number of people who die from drug abuse.

Reality: States that have legalized marijuana have actually seen a decrease in the number of deaths related to an opioid overdose. This amounts to more than 1,700 people whose lives were save at least in part due to the legalization of marijuana. With the opioid addiction epidemic ripping across the country, why wouldn’t we do everything we can to prevent opioid overdoses?

Myth: Marijuana will only be legalized if it’s completely safe.

Reality: Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. While it’s true that medical marijuana does have benefits when used at the discretion of a physician, there is a growing body of evidence that users can become addicted. Similarly, although alcohol and tobacco are legal substances, they have both been known to seriously injure and kill their users.

Myth: Once marijuana is legal anyone will be able to use it.

Reality: There is every reason to believe that if marijuana is legalized at a federal level it will be subject to very similar rules and regulations, including a minimum age for consumption, as cigarettes and alcohol. If anything, obtaining medical marijuana still will be much more difficult than picking up a six pack of beer or pack of cigarettes at a nearby gas station. Most states don’t have marijuana legalization bills on the docket, and until marijuana is legalized at a federal level, prospective users will likely need a medical marijuana card before being allowed near a dispensary.

There’s no reason to be afraid of new legislation this fall to legalize marijuana. While legalizing marijuana is not a perfect method of lowering opioid addiction-related deaths or helping someone survive the most difficult cancer treatments, the evidence is clear: legalizing marijuana will save and improve lives. Now states need to decide which is more important: punishing drug abusers or helping them avoid an opioid addiction.