WASHINGTON (TND) — Twenty-one states and Washington D.C. now allow any adult use of marijuana and the current lame-duck Congress could pass several federal marijuana legalization policies.
Since marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, like heroin, it’s extremely difficult to study. However, a White House spokesperson confirmed to the Fact Check Team that President Joe Biden will sign a bipartisan marijuana research bill, reducing the red tape associated with its research.
This is the first time a bill focused solely on marijuana has been passed by Congress.
There is also a national and bipartisan movement for the use of medical marijuana. The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act has bipartisan support and would allow legitimate cannabis-related businesses to access banking services.
If marijuana becomes federally legal, it would be available even in states that prohibit it because according to the U.S. Constitution, federal law is the supreme law of the land and supersedes state and local laws.
According to polling, Americans want legalization. Data from the Pew Research Center shows 88% of U.S. adults say marijuana should be legal for both recreational and medicinal use or medical use only.
However, another poll from Gallup shows only 32% of Conservatives ages 65 and older are in favor of legalizing the drug.
As of March, states where marijuana is legal reported a total of $11.2 billion in tax revenue from legal cannabis sales to adults, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
Of the 21 states where it’s legal, Rhode Island is newer on the list after legalizing cannabis earlier this year. The state will begin sales in December and, according to estimates, will see about $41 million in sales and generate $2.9 million in sales tax revenue.
Maryland and Missouri also voted to legalize marijuana earlier this month during the midterm elections. In Maryland, it will be legal in July of 2023 and in Missouri as early as February.
Amid the conversations about federal legalization, there are concerns about marijuana being a “gateway drug.”
A 2020 report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse said some research suggests that marijuana is likely to lead to use and abuse of other drugs, including nicotine. It also found that based on data, adult marijuana users were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder.
The answer, however, isn’t black or white. The agency said that while some data points to the idea that marijuana could be a “gateway drug,” the majority of users don’t go on to use “harder substances.”
The study noted that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are critical in understanding a person’s risk for drug use. There is an alternative to the “gateway drug” hypothesis, which is that people who are more vulnerable to drug use are more likely to start with more accessible substances – like marijuana, tobacco or alcohol – and their social interactions with other users heighten their chances of trying other drugs.
The bottom line is that further research is needed to determine and understand if marijuana can truly be considered a “gateway drug.”