The arguments for allowing medical marijuana are compelling, and many of them are emotional. From the children suffering otherwise-untreatable seizure disorders to patients dying of cancer, cannabis has offered relief and states are responding by passing more and more medical marijuana legislation. But where recreational pot is concerned, fewer Americans are sold on the idea of legalization.
A new survey from NPR and Truven Health Analytics indicates far more people support medicinal uses of marijuana than recreational use – findings that most would probably have guessed.
Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed believed allowing marijuana use for specific medical conditions is appropriate. But, only 43 percent backed all-out legalization, which is still quite a large amount of people.
Some say this is due to a lack of good information. While research regarding the benefits of medical marijuana are growing, there isn’t as much research on the effects of recreational pot, and people are still skeptical.
“There are many more unknowns than knowns,” said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist and head of New York University’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. “And I think the focus of the community — lay and scientific and governmental — should be on getting good information. That should be the real focus of what we need right now.”
Gaining support for medical marijuana has been a bit easier, with stories like that of Charlotte Figi, a girl suffering from uncontrollable seizures that hit her at a rate of 1,200 per month, reduced to one or two after using CBD, a non-psychoactive derivative of marijuana.
Really, the research on medical applications of marijuana have been growing significantly. Many of them are case studies and analyses performed on animals, however, which leaves them open to criticism from the opposition. But this criticism is nothing compared to that which is launched on recreational pot.
“The reason that people are concerned is that they recognize that this is an addictive substance, and some portion of the population that uses it will become addicted to it and have very bad outcomes,” says Dr. Sharon Levy of the teen substance abuse program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “As with all addictive products, the risk is greatest in adolescence.”
Dr. Levy is right that people believe marijuana to be addictive, but she is wrong to say that such a belief is accurate. Studies indicating the addictive nature of marijuana, like studies indicating the harmless nature, are lacking. Instead, the people who believe marijuana to be a dangerous “drug” have been sold a bill of goods from the War on Drugs and the law enforcement campaigns that have accompanied it.
Attitudes about marijuana are changing. And with an overwhelming majority supporting medical pot, it’s only a matter of time before people realize that marijuana is best legalized and regulated rather than criminalized.