No, Legal Pot Has Not Led to an Increase in Hard Drug Use

No, Legal Pot Has Not Led to an Increase in Hard Drug Use

The prohibitionist crowd often warns that increased access to legal marijuana would lead to increased use of harder drugs. A recent study disagrees.

For years, those who’ve opposed marijuana legalization have repeatedly predicted that legal marijuana use will cause increases in crime, traffic accidents, and marijuana use among youth. Those predictions haven’t panned out, and, according to a recent study, neither have warnings that legal marijuana will spur an increase in the use of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.

The study, conducted by data analysis company LiveStories, pokes further holes in the so-called “gateway drug” theory by illustrating that hard drug use has not increased in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and other states where recreational marijuana is legal.

While the study found that cannabis has (unsurprisingly) increased significantly in the wake of recreational legalization, it also found that binge drinking levels in legal cannabis states has stayed roughly the same and that tobacco use nationwide has decreased. Respondents’ legal concerns kept some from admitting to cocaine use, but researchers were able to gather reliable data showing that cocaine use in Colorado, for example, dropped between 2011 and 2016.

The LiveStories report also jives were other recent studies that show that opioid deaths in legal pot states have remained low compared to the national average. Legal states have also seen a high level of educational enrollment, with Colorado having the nation’s second highest percentage of citizens with a college-level education or higher.

While the legal marijuana industry can always benefit from more research, the LiveStories study does a good job of moving the needle in the right direction.