When Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) A local paper noticed that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. was seeking the Republican presidential nomination 2016. You might expect Rubio to be able to use cogent arguments, given his history and that Rubio is opposed by nearly two-thirds Americans.
It would not be true. Rubio, in an interview with Pensacola TV, expressed concerns that legalization could encourage teenage users to take cannabis. This would make it easier to access other drugs. Rubio also stated that “black-market” marijuana contains fentanyl. These arguments seem logically as well as empirically questionable. Rubio could do better if this is all he can manage.
Rubio stated, “When you make something illegal, it sends a message to people that it should not be so bad.” Rubio said, “Suddenly, you suddenly become an 18-year-old or 17-year-old. [and you]You might say: “Well, I’m aware of marijuana. But you don’t tell me to use it. The federal government has made marijuana legal so it shouldn’t be too bad. This makes it a gateway to a lot of problems in the country. It is well-known that cannabis use is the most common drug that someone uses before moving on to other things. Also, we’ve seen marijuana being bought off the streets laced with other drugs and fentanyl, which is killing people.
Rubio doesn’t yet know what effect repealing the federal prohibition on marijuana will have on these young people. There is no evidence to suggest that legalizing recreational or medical marijuana at the state level has increased underage use, which 37 states have already done.
The 2013 Study was published in American Journal of Public HealthIt was found that the medical marijuana laws had not significantly affected adolescents’ use of marijuana in the years following their adoption. The 2014 Study published in Journal of Adolescent HealthThe study also “didn’t find any increases in the adolescent use of marijuana related to legalization.” Similar results were also reported in The Lancet Psychiatry (2015), Alcoholism and drug dependence (2017), Addiction(2018). American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (2019).
While the data on recreational legalization may be mixed, it is not overwhelming. An 2017 JAMA PediatricsA study showed that marijuana consumption among eighth- and tenth-graders increased slightly in Washington, but was not affected by legalization in Colorado. An 2018 study published in Substance Abuse Treatment and ResearchResearchers found that there were no significant differences in adolescents’ substance use between the years before and after Washington recreational legalization. But, they did find significant increases in symptoms of use disorder and other problems following policy implementation. A 2019 Science of Prevention The study did not show any effect of the legalization of recreational marijuana sales to Colorado adults on adolescents’ (illegal) use.
An 2018 APA PsycNetStudy found that Oregon legalizing recreational marijuana did not lead to an increase in marijuana consumption among youths who had not used marijuana before, but it did result in an increase in marijuana use by those who have. In 2019, a study was published. JAMA PediatricsBased on data from Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), the study concluded that “there is no evidence that legalizing medical marijuana encourages youth to use it” and suggested “marijuana usage among youth might actually decrease after recreational legalization.”
In 2019, a systematic review was conducted and a meta-analysis was performed. BMJ OpenThese studies indicated that cannabis consumption among young people and adolescents increased after recreational marijuana legalisation. However, it pointed out that the studies that were characterized by low/low risks of bias did not support any change in cannabis consumption after changes to policy.
An analysis from 2021 published in Journal of Adolescent HealthYRBS data suggests that there are minimal effects on the short-term [recreational legalization]The study focuses on adolescents’ substance use. There is a small decrease in marijuana usage and an increase in the probability of using e-cigarettes. Another study, also based upon YRBS data was published in JAMA Network OpenLast year, it was found that there were “no significant associations” between the enactment [recreational or medical legalization]Students in high school are exposed to marijuana.
Rubio is concerned that marijuana could be a “gateway to” more dangerous drugs. Rubio likely knows, from his own experience, that most people who use pot do not become addicts to heroin. Taking a page from George W. Bush, Rubio has refused to say whether he smoked pot in his youth, based on a rationale that implicitly concedes he did: “If I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, ‘Well, I can smoke marijuana, because look how he made it.'”
Rubio says that’s a very dangerous message. Because these children might not believe Rubio, and think pot could be the first step to disaster. Although the idea of a “gateway drug,” has been popularized by pot prohibitionists in the 1950s and 1960s, it is much more complex than Rubio claims.
The truth is that marijuana is often used first before moving on to other drugs. Also, it is true that marijuana users are more likely than those who don’t try the drug. However, this does not necessarily mean that marijuana is illegal. The causesPeople should “move on” to other things. Numerous studies that attempted to determine correlation or causation through controlling for and adjusting variables in confounding situations have produced mixed results.
Andrew Morral, a psychologist, and colleagues from the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, have demonstrated that a combination of an underlying propensity for using drugs and the relative availability different intoxicants could fully explain the following phenomena: 1) That people use marijuana more often than other drugs; 2) that marijuana users are more likely not to try other drugs and 3) the probability of progression increasing with increased marijuana use. Although their mathematical model didn’t disprove gateway theory, it proved that this theory was not required to explain the observed phenomena. Morral et al. concluded that “available evidence does not favor the marijuana gateway effect over the alternative hypothesis that marijuana and hard drug initiation are correlated because both are influenced by individuals’ heterogenous liabilities to try drugs.”
Rubio seems to be just as knowledgeable about research regarding the gateway theory than he is on research related to how legalization will affect adolescent marijuana usage. However, Rubio’s third argument against legalization that marijuana is “laced” with fentanyl, and other drugs, can be debunked easily without digging into the scientific literature.
It’s worth noting, however that marijuana laced with fentanyl may just be “an urban legend,” according to an intelligence officer at the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It would not be a threat. Legalization—the very policy that Rubio ostensibly is arguing against—is the surest way to assure cannabis consumers that their pot is not mixed with something they neither expect nor want. Rubio’s ignorance to this point is an indication of how scientifically and logically flawed the policy that he claims he defends.