A new study by researchers at the University of Victoria and UBC suggests pot is getting a bad rap as a gateway drug.

The study indicates cannabis can actually be a safer substitute for potentially more dangerous drugs like prescription opiates, alcohol and illicit substances.

"While cannabis is not benign, most research suggests that it's safer and less addictive than many substances, particularly prescription opiates," said lead author Philippe Lucas in a written statement.

Lucas, who is also vice-president of patient research and services at Tilray, a federally authorized medical cannabis company, added:

"So research suggesting that cannabis substitution could reduce harms and lessen the public health and safety impact of alcohol and other drugs has significant policy implications."

Lucas says for some people, it might even be an "exit drug" to addiction.

The study also found that younger drug users were more likely than older ones to substitute marijuana for other substances.

The study is based on data collected from the Cannabis Access for Medical Purposes Survey — the largest Canadian survey of medical cannabis patients to date.

It examined drug use among 473 adults who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Among respondents, 87 per cent said they used marijuana to substitute for alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs.

With files from Canadian Press