Once and for all, Marijuana is not a gateway drug!

Marijuana prohibition, not marijuana is the gateway to hard drugs

While most people who use harder drugs like heroin have used cannabis, only a small proportion of people who use cannabis go on to use hard drugs. However, buying cannabis brings you into contact with the illegal drugs trade, making it more likely that you will be exposed to other drugs .The surging debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana has brought with it the resurrection of the “gateway theory,” which alleges that experimenting with marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

It is ‘prohibition of marijuana,’ not marijuana, that is the gateway.

Some people still believe weed is a “gateway drug.” On the contrary, it is the policy of drug prohibition–not the drug per se–that creates a gateway into a criminal underworld of crime and contaminated products.  A new survey shows that nearly half of voters (46%) believe marijuana use leads to use of harder drugs. Thirty-seven percent (37%) do not see marijuana as a “gateway” drug.


In 2006, the University of Pittsburgh released a study

( http://scienceblog.com/12116/study-says-marijuana-no-gateway-drug/ )   in which researchers spent 12 years tracking a group of subjects from adolescence into adulthood and documented the initiation and progression of their drug use. The researchers found that the gateway theory was not only wrong, but also harmful to properly understanding and addressing drug abuse:
“This evidence supports the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user’s individual tendencies and environmental circumstances.”

Crossing the Line

Turning to a criminal underground results in otherwise law-abiding citizens crossing that boundary between the legal and the illegal. It gives buyers a level of comfort in a world outside the law. Criminal organizations have no reason to check ID. Why should they? It’s no more illegal to sell to minors than to adults. A criminal enterprise also has no reason to ensure purity, or grade and label potency. Why bother? A customer who gets a bad product has no recourse–and may in fact end up dead. Survivors can’t report problems to the FDA or a consumer protection bureau so there is no removal of bad dealers over time.

You aren’t likely to be able to find a heroin dealer if you can’t even score weed. Compared with pot dealers, sellers of hard drugs tend to be even less trusting of customers they don’t know, in part because they face greater penalties. But if you’ve proved yourself by regularly purchasing marijuana, dealers will happily introduce to you to their harder product lines if you express interest, or help you find a friend of theirs who can.

Once the customer has entered the “shop,” there is every incentive to up-sell to higher margin products. The customer who comes to a Honda dealership asking for a Civic might be encouraged by a rational dealer to look at the Accord. A customer asking for marijuana might rationally be encouraged to try heroin or cocaine or meth. Marijuana being schedule I is absolutely insane. We have states that have legalized it recreationally and medically, people have used it for thousands of years medicinally, and no one has died from it. So what’s the message the DEA and federal govt are sending to young, impressionable people? If marijuana is a schedule I drug but is safe, maybe the other drugs are too. Since certain drugs are taken less seriously, people are more likely to abuse them and not keep their addiction in check.

In the criminal world, conversations about the risks of marijuana for developing brains or the risks of heroin for everyone do not take place. Only in a legal regulated environment can such educational efforts occur.

Of course, in theory, people could protect themselves by never using any mind-altering substances, but that is not a realistic expectation. Like cats are attracted to catnip, we as a species, might have certain predispositions , an inclination to seek out substances that provide relaxation or alter mood or consciousness,  provide euphoria.

Just like prescription pills and tobacco, alcohol is seen as more socially acceptable in society because the government approves of it. However, all substances are more dangerous than marijuana. If anything, alcohol is the gateway drug. Alcohol use precedes marijuana use, and so does tobacco. Is alcohol and tobacco the real gateway drugs?

Instead of making policy predicated on the assumption that humans are able to be ‘perfect’ and that we can achieve a drug-free World, it’s far better to acknowledge who we are as a species, have our faults, and develop ways to manage these problematic substances–and legalization is a prerequisite for regulation.

Stop using the criminal law in a futile attempt to prevent drug use. Instead, legalize, regulate, educate and manage. Let’s save all the money now spent on drug arrests, prosecution and incarceration. Prosecute only underage sales. Stop the failed policy of prohibition. Close that gateway to the criminal underworld.

It is the policy of drug prohibition that is the gateway to harder drugs.

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