A leading financial contributor to anti-marijuana legalization campaigns is doubling down on claims that politicians who take donations from the legal pot industry are accepting “blood money.”
Julie Schauer, the Pennsylvania millionaire spent over $1.4 million to prevent adults from legally smoking pot over 2,000 miles away in California and Nevada, early Monday morning explained via her @InAweOfArt Twitter account that marijuana is to blame for “most” of the “74,000 [who] died [in] 2017 from drugs.”
@JBPritzker @DanielBiss @KennedyforIL From his response, Russ thinks ok for the pot industry to own politicians. 74,000 died 2017 from drugs, most began use w/pot or combined w/pot — Double the number of people who die by guns. Others die from driving high,pot-induced psychosis
— Julie Schauer (@InAweofArt) March 19, 2018
Schauer provides no source for her claim that 74,000 people died in 2017 from drug overdoses. According to the CDC, there were over 63,600 such deaths in 2016. Data for 2017 has not yet been completely tallied, but provisional counts do show the rate of overdose to be increasing, so perhaps 74,000 is a reasonable figure.
Schauer’s error in reasoning, of course, is blaming someone’s drug overdose on the drug that didn’t kill them: marijuana.
Schauer’s guilty of believing the long-debunked Gateway Drug Theory. It’s the idea that since virtually every person who uses drugs used marijuana first, marijuana must lead people to using drugs.
It’s as silly as reasoning that since virtually every member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang rode a tricycle as a toddler, tricycles must lead to people joining outlaw biker gangs. (Thanks to Maia Szalavitz for that analogy.)
Never mind that the government’s own Institute of Medicine soundly rejected the theory, noting that, if anything, alcohol and tobacco are more likely to be a drug user’s first choice of drug.
Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. 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.
The authors further explain that, yes, drug use tends to follow marijuana use which tends to follow alcohol or tobacco use, but marijuana doesn’t inexorably lead someone into using other drugs.
In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a “gateway” drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, “gateway” to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.
The Institute came to this conclusion in 1999. Yet the Gateway Drug Theory is a zombie lie that will not die. It seems every five years or so, esteemed sources must publicly debunk the marijuana-leads-to-heroin scaremongering, such as Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders in 2002;
…much of their rhetoric about marijuana being a “gateway drug” is simply wrong. After decades of looking, scientists still have no evidence that marijuana causes people to use harder drugs. If there is any true “gateway drug,” it’s tobacco.
Every year, the federal government funds two huge surveys on drug use in the population. Over and over they find that the number of people who try marijuana dwarfs that for cocaine or heroin. For example, in 2009, 2.3 million people reported trying pot — compared with 617,000 who tried cocaine and 180,000 who tried heroin.
In short, just because marijuana smokers might be more likely to later use, say, cocaine, does not imply that using marijuana causes one to use cocaine.
Schauer is correct in her observation that twice as many people died of drug overdoses as died from gun violence. However, nobody died from an overdose on marijuana. Nobody who died from drug overdoses were killed when a madman acquired a stash of drugs and shot them into unwilling people’s bodies from dozens of yards away.
I already addressed Schauer’s spurious claims that marijuana leads to traffic deaths, politicians who accept pot lobby donations are accepting “blood money,” and the Democrats will be owned as much by marijuana money as the Republicans are owned by gun money. Suffice to say that studies show no difference in crash risk between drivers who’ve used marijuana and those who don’t and the federal government explains that marijuana testing in no way relates to driving impairment.
Schauer’s final claim about “pot-induced psychosis,” however, harkens back to outrageous statements she made in 2016 that marijuana is to blame for the Boston terrorist bombing, serial killer Robert Durst, and numerous mass shooters.
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) September 9, 2016
It says a lot about the relative safety of marijuana that opponents of its legalization have to scare you with opioid overdoses, traffic fatalities, and terrorism falsely attributed to marijuana, rather than what marijuana itself does to the human body.
Fortunately, after 7,000 years of recorded human use with no overdose deaths, all but four states recognizing some medicinal benefit in the cannabis plant, and almost two-thirds of Americans supporting its legalization, most people have recognized that marijuana’s not just safer than alcohol and tobacco, it’s safer than sugar.