Marijuana advocates are trumpeting a recent study that says a majority of people smoke weed as a substitute for something else that could be harmful, including alcohol, prescription drugs and street narcotics.
The conclusion, or at least suggestion, is that, instead of being a so-called "gateway drug" to poisons such as crack and heroin, cannabis is an "exit drug" that can get people away from substances that are worse. Are you buyin' it?
The study, "Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs," was published recently in the journal Addiction Research and Theory.
It analyzed self-reported activity from 404 medical marijuana patients and found 3 out of 4 used cannabis as a substitute for another substance:
Over 41% state that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 36.1% use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances, and 67.8% use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs.
Users cited less withdrawal, fewer side effects and better relief for their symptoms.
... A growing body of research on cannabis-related substitution suggests that for many patients cannabis is not only an effective medicine, but also a potential exit drug to problematic substance use.
Call us skeptical: 404 is a small sample, and self-reporting is rife with pitfalls when it comes to real science.
But this is interesting nonetheless and, here in the pot shop capital of the world, we certainly all know folks who would just as soon spark up as pour a glass of pinot noir. Just ask the New York Times.