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Early Marijuana Use and Later Gang Involvement

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This post from Medical News Today discusses a new federal study linking early marijuana use and subsequent membership with gangs, violent behavior, and general juvenile delinquency. As mentioned previously, the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor has greatly enhanced our understanding of how marijuana affects the brain. While the present study results are intriguing, the obvious counter-argument is that it is likely that many people use marijuana without joining gangs or engaging in violence. Furthermore, although the gateway drug theory of marijuana has been supported by numerous studies, those studies often neglect to fully account for alcohol as the primary gateway drug of abuse. Nonetheless, the new study, sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (which curiously is a separate Institute at the National Institute of Health and separate from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ) adds to the litany of studies strongly suggesting that marijuana isn't "harmless" as some folks may argue.

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News flash! Teens who occasionally break the law are more likely to break other laws than teens who never break the law! Holy Moly National Institute of Drug Abuse, you must be on to something! Maybe if you used controls (like comparing violent crime rates for marijuana users in places where it is not illegal), your idiotic propaganda studies might have meaning. But since you don't, you might want to provide a warning to innocent bloggers who are confused by the propoganda tactics, and pass on the message that marijuana use is linked with violent behavior. But don't take my word for it. Let's see what the government studies cited in the "report" actual indicated. Well, for starters the cited study on violent behavior indicated that marijuana users have the lowest violent behavior rates of any type of drug users identified in the survey: cocaine, methamphetamine, hallucinagens, inhalents, and you got it - prescription pain killers, (nothing like being zonked out on vikodin to make you want to do something violent). So if you used other illicit drugs as a control (to cancel out the noise of general delinquency) marijuana use is actually positively correlated with pacivity! (no surprise to anyone whose ever used marijuana). With regard to gang membership, the report cites a study which indicated that early marijuana use increases your odds of joining a gang by 3.7 times. Sounds pretty impressive, until you cross-reference it with the fact reported in the same study that being in a neighborhood where marijuana is available for use to begin with increases your risk of being in a gang by 3.6 times. Not the strongest correlation, now, is it? I know the reporter never bothered to read this spoonfed report carefully or critically, but given the fact that some intelligent people actually read this blog, maybe you should have.

These are fair criticisms of the study, which is why I suggested that this study, like many others, fail to acknowledge that alcohol is the true gateway drug. It's too bad that NIDA is sponsoring such apparently weak research.

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