A recently released YouGov survey shows that 40% of American adults have changed their minds about drug policy. No surprises there. People change their minds on key topics all the time. More importantly, most of the people who have changed their minds about drugs have adopted more liberal views.
That explains why Americans are showing increased support for marijuana decriminalization. It is why cannabis advocates have been so successful in passing state-by-state medical cannabis proposition, then turning those successes into equally successful decriminalization efforts.
If there is anything troubling about this trend, it’s the number one reason people say they have changed their minds: new facts or information learned. A close second are new insights gained with maturity.
Facts Are Facts
As someone who writes for a living, I have to always do my best to make sure I deal only in facts. I do not have the luxury of entertaining what society now calls ‘alternative facts’. But here’s the thing: the whole concept of alternative facts is absurd. They do not exist. They cannot exist.
By its very nature, a fact is non-negotiable. It is set in stone. It cannot have an alternative else it would not be a fact at all. What does this have to do with the YouGov survey? Everything.
Our Knowledge Is Limited
We know very little about marijuana from a scientific perspective. Granted, we knew even less when the federal government added marijuana to the list of Schedule I controlled substances. But in the 50 years since, marijuana’s status under federal law has prevented any meaningful research.
The lack of research means that our knowledge about marijuana is limited. It is extremely limited. For instance, we have no idea what the long-term effects of recreational marijuana use are based on the products now being sold.
We do know that marijuana producers are gradually increasing the potency of their plants. So today’s marijuana plants cannot be compared to the ones grown 50 years ago. So again, we don’t know how higher potency plants affect long-term health.
Medical Cannabis Questions
Switching gears to medical cannabis, consider Utah. It is one of the most conservative states in the union. No one thought they would jump on the medical cannabis train as quickly as they did. Yet here we are. Brigham City’s Beehive Farmacy says that pro-cannabis advocates made a very strong case that ended up pushing Proposition 2 over the finish line back in 2019. But what was their case built on?
We still don’t have sufficient scientific evidence proving that medical cannabis is an effective treatment for pain, PTSD, and most of the other conditions on Utah’s list. This is not to say that marijuana doesn’t work. It may. We just don’t know. All we have are a few small-scale studies and a ton of anecdotal reports.
All the Data Is Valid
Do not misunderstand the point here. Small-scale studies have a place at the table. So do anecdotal reports. All the data is valid. But without proper scientific study, at scale and using proper clinical procedures, the limited data we now have is not yet verified. Therefore, it doesn’t constitute fact.
The difficulty here is that anyone writing a blog post or news article can cite what appear to be facts despite being conjecture. Readers don’t know the difference. So how many of the ‘facts’ responsible for motivating attitude changes about cannabis are actual, genuine facts?
It is clear that Americans have changed their minds about drug policy. Whether or not that’s good remains to be seen. For the sake of the country, let us hope it’s good.