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29 Isn't marijuana a gateway drug? Doesn't it lead to use of harder drugs?




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This article is from the Hemp / Cannabis / Marijuana FAQ, by Brian S. Julin verdant@twain.ucs.umass.edu with numerous contributions by others.

29 Isn't marijuana a gateway drug? Doesn't it lead to use of harder drugs?

This is totally untrue. In fact, researchers are looking
into using marijuana to help crack addicts to quit. There
are 40 million people in this country (U.S.) who have smoked
marijuana for a period of their lives -- why aren't there
tens of millions of heroin users, then? In Amsterdam, both
marijuana use and heroin use went *down* after marijuana was
decriminalized -- even though there was a short rise in
cannabis use right after decriminalization. Unlike
addictive drugs, marijuana causes almost no tolerance. Some
people even report a reverse tolerance. That is, the longer
they have used the less marijuana they need to get `high.'
So users of marijuana do not usually get bored and `look for
something more powerful'. If anything, marijuana keeps
people from doing harder drugs.

The idea that using marijuana will lead you to use heroin or
speed is called the `gateway theory' or the `stepping stone
hypothesis.' It has been a favorite trick of the anti-drug
propaganda artists, because it casts marijuana as something
insidious with hidden dangers and pitfalls. There have
never been any real statistics to back this idea up, but
somehow it was the single biggest thing which the newspapers
yelled about during Reefer Madness II. (Perhaps this was
because the CIA was looking for someone to blame for the
increase in heroin use after Viet Nam.)

The gateway theory of drug use is no longer generally
accepted by the medical community. Prohibitionists used to
point at numbers which showed that a large percentage of the
hard drug users `started with marijuana.' They had it
backwards -- many hard drug users also use marijuana. There
are two reasons for this. One is that marijuana can be used
to `take the edge off' the effects of some hard drugs. The
other is a recently discovered fact of adolescent psychology
-- there is a personality type which uses drugs, basically
because drugs are exciting and dangerous, a thrill.

On sociological grounds, another sort of gateway theory has
been argued which claims that marijuana is the source of the
drug subculture and leads to other drugs through that
culture. By the same token this is untrue -- marijuana does
not create the drug subculture, the drug subculture uses
marijuana. There are many marijuana users who are not a
part of the subculture.

This brings up another example of how marijuana legalization
could actually reduce the use of illicit drugs. Even though
there is no magical `stepping stone' effect, people who
choose to buy marijuana often buy from dealers who deal in
many different illegal drugs. This means that they have
access to illegal drugs, and might decide to try them out.
In this case it is the laws which lead to hard drug use. If
marijuana were legal, the drug markets would be separated,
and less people would start using the illegal drugs. Maybe
this is why emergency room admissions for hard drugs have
gone down in the states that decriminalized marijuana during
the 70's.


``Who Says Marijuana Use Leads to Heroin Addiction?'' by Jerry Mandel
in ``Journal of Secondary Education'' Vol. 43 Iss. 5 pp. 211-217.
pub. California Association of Secondary School Administrators
Burlingame, CA May

``Marihuana reconsidered Lester Grinspoon. '' by Lester Grinspoon M.D.
1928- pub. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1977.

 

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