The latest numbers from the state show that more than 66,000 patients have active medical cannabis cards in Utah. That is a lot more than lawmakers were originally expecting when the program first launched a couple of years ago. Still, we can’t help but wonder how many patients who qualify for medical cannabis don’t use it because they believe it is a gateway drug.
The gateway drug theory has been around since the 1970s. As the theory goes, people who regularly use cannabis ultimately end up using more harmful drugs in the search for a better high. But has the theory ever proved true? Not that we know of. In fact, an impressive study released by the University of Colorado, Boulder definitively asserts that cannabis isn’t a gateway drug.
Ignorance Ruled the Day
Back in the 1960s and 70s, health experts and politicians didn’t know much about cannabis. You could say that ignorance ruled the day. Common sense seemed to suggest that people chasing the ultimate high would eventually tap out on cannabis and move to other drugs. Thus, cannabis was labeled a gateway drug. Fortunately, a lot has changed over the last 60 years or so.
We have a lot more science about cannabis today. The UC Boulder study is among the latest pieces of science we can look at. The study enrolled more than 4,000 twins from both Colorado and Minnesota to see how state legalization impacts drug use. Colorado allows both medical and recreational cannabis; Minnesota is a medical-only state.
Researchers relied on a mountain of data already gathered on the twins for other research purposes. The data follows the twins from adolescence through adulthood. Today, all the participants are between the ages of 24 and 49. What does the data show? That state cannabis legalization does not lead people to transition to heavier drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Very Little Negative Impact
In addition, the study partially answers the question of whether long-term cannabis use contributes to psychological or social problems. Researchers concluded it does not. They found no connection between cannabis consumption and:
- psychological problems
- relationship difficulties
- financial problems
- anti-social behavior.
While fairly conclusive, the study did have its limitations. For instance, there was very little substance use or psychosocial dysfunction observed among the study group. Also, limiting study participants to just two states could skew the results to some degree.
Talk to a Medical Provider
The UC Boulder study offers compelling evidence that cannabis is not a gateway drug. If you believe you qualify for a medical cannabis card in Utah but have been afraid to move forward due to the gateway drug theory, you may have nothing to worry about. Still, we encourage you to talk with a medical provider about using medical cannabis to treat your condition.
Utah patients can visit with either qualified medical providers (QMPs) or limited medical providers (LMPs) for assistance getting their cards. What’s the difference? A QMP has undergone state-approved training and is licensed to recommend medical cannabis to up to 1000 patients at a time. An LMP hasn’t received the training and can only recommend medical cannabis to up to 15 patients.
You can find a list of medical providers on the state medical cannabis website. After visiting with a medical provider and obtaining your card, you will be free to visit our Brigham City and Salt Lake City pharmacies where you’ll find a full selection of medical cannabis products. And of course, our pharmacist will be on hand to answer your questions and offer qualified advice.