Another study contradicting the notion that marijuana acts as a gateway to 'harder' drugs was published this month by scientists at the BC Centre on Substance Use.
The study also supports the notion that marijuana could be a viable substitute for individuals struggling with opioid addiction.
Researchers repeatedly interviewed 481 homeless young people in Vancouver’s downtown core who had never injected any drugs and found - over a decade of tracking this at-risk cohort - that daily cannabis use was associated with a 34 per cent decrease in the rate people started injecting drugs.
“One common perception about cannabis is that it’s a so-called gateway drug to other, higher risk drug use. However, our study found the opposite,” said M. J. Milloy, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the centre and co-author of the study led by Hudson Reddon.
“For them, cannabis was a strategy that they used to try and manage their drug use – to try and ‘detox’ from harder opioids or stimulants.”
The researchers' findings are inline with other studies that show marijuana is not the gateway drug it has long been made out to be.
A small body of research showing that medical marijuana can be helpful in fighting prescription opioid addiction is growing as well.
Another recent study from the University of British Columbia and funded by licensed cannabis grower Tilray found more than half of the 271 medical-marijuana patients interviewed said they use cannabis to help them get off heavier prescription drugs, with the largest percentage saying pot acts as a substitute painkiller for opioids.
But some are unwilling to acknowledge that old ways of thinking about the drug might be wrong.
While Canada is on the brink of legalizing marijuana, the U.S. federal government seems determined to hang on to the past.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made clear that he is against the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, and he is looking to pick up the pace of America's war on drugs.
“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” Sessions said. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
While no one is known to have overdosed on marijuana alone -- which by itself sets the drug apart from others that are more dangerous -- thousands of Americans overdose on opioids each year.