Medical marijuana on display in Los Angeles
Sativex, an oral spray derived from the active chemicals in marijuana, has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand, and several European counties. Reuters

Two months after Colorado and Washington State legalized the use of marijuana for adults, the perception of the drug around the rest of the country seems to be changing. Now a Nobel Peace Prize laureate has come out to dispel what he calls myths around cannabis as more states have proposed halting prosecution.

Dr. Henry David Abrahams, during an interview with Test Country, said smoking cigarettes during adolescence is more likely to lead to drug or alcohol abuse later in life than using marijuana.

“Parents need to establish themselves as a real role model around the consumption drugs and alcohol,” Abrahams said. “Cigarettes are a gateway and also a modeling behavior for kids. More kids smoke whose parents smoke, and smoking is without a doubt the most important gateway drug.”

Abrahams, who was the co-recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, warned against putting too much emphasis on marijuana, though, saying “the confusion of marijuana as medicine is one of the most harmful” misconceptions.

His interview came the day before state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat, went public with his intention to introduce a bill that would legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, according to CBS. The legislation would regulate the drug much like alcohol, with smoking and possession legal for adults over the age of 21.

“Like alcohol, legalization and regulation will make marijuana safer. People will no longer have to buy it on the streets from criminals who may have laced their product with other dangerous drugs,” Leach said. “People buying legally will know exactly what they are getting and be able to rely on the safety of what they are purchasing.”

The likelihood of the bill’s success was not immediately clear, but it would fly in the face of the position taken by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who has said in the past he is against legalization of any kind, including for medical use.

“This horrific policy must end,” Leach said. “People around the nation are realizing that. And it is a moral imperative that Pennsylvania wake up and end prohibition now.”