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What the opponents say
60. Marijuana is a “gateway drug.” Using it will lead to more and more illegal drug use.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences says no.
“There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular physiological effect,” and “there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” Those were the findings of their report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
The report went on to find that marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association.” While there may be a correlation between marijuana use and the use of illicit drugs, because people who use other drugs typically also use marijuana, the study does not show that the drug effects of marijuana cause users to try other drugs.
The study elaborates: “Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana—usually before they are of legal age.”
There is also a broad social concern that sanctioning the medical use of marijuana might increase its use among the general population. The Institute of Medicine concluded that “at this point there are no convincing data to support this concern. The existing data are consistent with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential.”
The people who use the “gateway” argument never differentiate between marijuana and medical marijuana. The evidence accumulated from a number of research studies refutes the proposition that marijuana will serve to lure everyone who uses it to harder and harder illegal drugs. As for medical marijuana, the only people who can obtain it must have a specific debilitating medical condition and will be under the care of a physician. A well-regulated medical marijuana program does not increase non-medical use, but will provide relief to patients who have not found relief in pharmaceutical drugs. Such a program will not serve as a gateway to illicit drug use.
61. Medical marijuana is just the first step. If it is approved, full legalization for recreational use is right around the corner.
33 states have adopted medical marijuana programs; only 10 states have legalized recreational use. One does not cause the other. Of the 10 states that now have recreational use of marijuana, all but one state have done so through a ballot initiative requiring approval of the voters. The same would be true in Mississippi. There will be no recreational use of marijuana legalized in Mississippi without approval of the voters. And there is nothing in Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative that sanctions the use of recreational marijuana or that would inevitably lead to the use of recreational marijuana. There are groups in Mississippi who have tried to gather the required number of signatures to put legalization on the ballot, and they have all failed. In fact, they have not even come close to obtaining the necessary number of signatures to even qualify it for the ballot. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use has zero to do with this campaign’s efforts; our concern is to provide patients in Mississippi with the same medical option that more than 2.8 million patients in 33 states are benefiting from to help ease their suffering under the care of physicians.
62. Saying “yes” to medical marijuana sends the wrong message to our children about the use of illegal drugs.
We believe that medical marijuana gives physicians an effective option for their patients who are in pain and who suffer from certain diseases and debilitating medical conditions. Like any other medicine that has harmful side effects or that can be addictive, care must be taken with children to help them understand the good that can come from properly using medical marijuana and the harm that can come from misusing medical marijuana.
This proposal provides checks and balances throughout, and anything outside of qualified patients who are under the care of a physician and certified to obtain medical marijuana within the legal and strict regulatory framework provided by the Mississippi Department of Health would still be deemed illegal and punishable by law.
As for the role the legal use of medical marijuana could play in encouraging young people to try illicit drugs, that has not been the experience in the 33 states that currently allow the use of medical marijuana. A recent American Journal of Public Health article, using data covering 9 years in 4 states with medical marijuana programs concluded: "Our results suggest that, in the states assessed here, medical marijuana laws have not measurably affected adolescent marijuana use in the first few years after their enactment.” In fact, a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse found that “legalizing medicinal marijuana has actually led to a drop in cannabis use among teenagers.” These studies have suggested that once medical marijuana becomes legal, parents have taken a greater responsibility in talking with their children about the drug’s pros and cons.
While medical marijuana is not a cure-all, it does help people in tremendous ways as is shown in studies and testimonials of cancer patients, people with quadriplegia from spinal cord injury, and people with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and ALS, and others. We believe parents and other religious and community leaders can help children understand the difference between using a drug to help people and using a drug for other illicit purposes.
63. The use by children of medical marijuana will do permanent damage to their development.
There is no research study that provides evidence that medical marijuana used under the care of a physician is detrimental to the normal development of children.
What is in fact detrimental to the normal development of a child is a disease that is not adequately treated, such as epilepsy or other kinds of seizures, or debilitating pain that is not overcome. There is ample evidence that demonstrates that medical marijuana can help a young patient, while under the care of a physician.
See question 33 to read more about how medical marijuana is a helpful and effective treatment for children who either have not responded well to pharmaceutical drugs, or whose only other option is a strong cocktail of heavy pharmaceutical drugs.
64. Because medical marijuana will be available in edible forms, children will accidentally ingest medical marijuana.
There is no question that medical marijuana should be treated in the same manner as any other prescription medication. Many prescription drugs, if accidently taken by children, can be harmful. All drugs, including medical marijuana, should be stored in a safe place that is out of the reach of children.
There are many delivery methods available, including edibles, because patients suffer from a variety of debilitating medical conditions, some of which respond best to certain delivery methods instead of others. For more information about the different forms by which medical marijuana can be consumed, see question 22.
The Mississippi Department of Health will provide and enforce the regulatory framework for Mississippi’s medical marijuana program, which means they will have the authority to set dosage units, set potency allowance, and oversee packaging and labeling of products, etc.
65. There is no medical research that supports the use of medical marijuana.
There is a significant amount of scientific evidence that shows medical marijuana is a safe and effective medicine for people suffering from symptoms of a variety of debilitating medical conditions. For additional scientific research that shows medical marijuana is a safe and effective medicine for people from symptoms from debilitating medical conditions, click here and here.
66. This is not something doctors want to do.
There is no requirement that any physician in Mississippi will be required to certify the use of medical marijuana for any patient. The only thing this initiative does is make medical marijuana available to doctors who want to use it.
On the other hand, hundreds of physicians in the 33 states where medical marijuana is now legal, are treating more than 2.8 million Americans, having recognized that medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option for patients, many of whom have been helped by medical marijuana but whose symptoms did not respond to traditional pharmaceutical medications.
The Medical Marijuana 2020 Steering Committee includes medical doctors and other health care professionals, as well as medical organizations, all of whom support medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for symptoms of debilitating medical conditions
67. Medical marijuana increases the risk of mental illness.
Marijuana “does not in itself cause a psychosis disorder.” That was the conclusion reached by researchers in Current Psychiatry Reports in a 2016 study that found just the reverse, that individuals with a vulnerability to psychosis were more likely to use marijuana, but marijuana did not cause psychosis. In other words, the use of marijuana came after the mental illness.
On the other hand, research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that marijuana derivatives had “beneficial effects in patients with schizophrenia” which “may represent a new class of treatment for the disorder.”
These findings support the need for a tightly-regulated medical marijuana program that allows Mississippi physicians to consider medical marijuana for their patients, even those with mental illnesses.
68. The market for medical marijuana will be controlled by just a few businesses which will drive up the price and limit availability.
It is true that some states limit the number of businesses that sell medical marijuana products by restricting the number of licenses that businesses must obtain. That will not be the case in Mississippi if voters approve the initiative. The Mississippi proposal would create a free market for regulated businesses to provide medical marijuana. So long as a business meets the safety and quality control requirements imposed the Mississippi Department of Health, a business will be welcome to offer product anywhere in the state.
69. Letting the Mississippi Department of Health regulate medical marijuana means my tax dollars will go toward something I have a moral objection to.
That is not what will happen in Mississippi. Under the Medical Marijuana 2020 proposal, the regulation and enforcement of the program will be funded by fees paid by medical marijuana businesses and by fees paid by the patients who use medical marijuana. No general fund money of the state will be used to cover the costs associated with this program.
The initiative creates three sources of revenue for the Mississippi Department of Health to use in regulating and enforcing the medical marijuana program in the state. Those sources are the cost of an ID card, licensing fees for treatment centers, and a charge at the point of retail purchase of medical marijuana that cannot exceed the state’s sales tax rate. All of this revenue will go into a special fund for the Mississippi Department of Health to use exclusively for this program. For more information, see question 35.
70. Alex Berenson has been in the news about his book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. Do any of his claims have merit?
The claims made by Berenson in his book can indeed sound alarming and serve as a cause for concern. The good news is that Berenson’s assertions are not accurate. He ignores much of the latest research and fails to cite the criticisms that have been published about the reports he does use.
Many of his claims are so exaggerated that a group of 100 scholars and clinicians released a public letter that refutes Berenson, pointed out his many inaccuracies, gave examples of the way he cherry-picked evidence, and explained how he incorrectly attributes cause to mere associations. A few examples include the following:
Berenson wrote that “Medical science has yet to identify any verified and confirmed health benefit to using [marijuana].” As we showed in the FAQ section titled “What Medical Research Says,” this is just not true.
Berenson wrote that “Marijuana is, in fact, a gateway drug, which leads to experimentation with other drugs.” We refuted that claim in question 60.
Berenson wrote “But most disturbing of all is a clearly demonstrated link between cannabis use and mental illness. Rather than serving as a cure for psychiatric problems, it’s actually a cause. Marijuana can cause or worsen severe forms of mental illness, particularly psychosis, which in layman’s terms means a total break with reality.” Again, as we showed in question 67, Berenson is wrong.
There is plenty of evidence that medical marijuana is effective in treating the symptoms and effects of a number of specific diseases. Moreover, 2.8 million Americans are using medical marijuana in 33 states, with positive reports from those experiences. For scientific research that shows medical marijuana is a safe and effective medicine for people from symptoms from debilitating medical conditions, click here and here.