One of the chief arguments against marijuana legalization is that it is a so-called “gateway drug”. It has been long believed that using marijuana at an early age leads to abuse of other, more dangerous drugs later in life. However, emerging research is beginning to shift popular opinion. Condemning marijuana as a gateway drug may soon become a thing of the past.
Those who are strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana use in the United States (whether medical or recreational), use the gateway drug argument quite conveniently. Convincing them that cannabis leads to a slew of other substance issues or illegal activity further, and easily encourages them to vote against legalization. People in fear that their loved one could fall victim to hard drug habits are quick to throw marijuana under the bus as a root cause. This fear-tactic, although misguided, has placed a roadblock in the way of cannabis education and acceptance for decades.
The convenient dispute may be compelling, but labeling this as any type of gateway drug simply doesn’t hold any water. This may come as a disappointment to activists that value this argument as a defense against marijuana legalization.
A recent study in the Journal of School Health may be able to shed further light on this subject. In a group of surveyed 12th graders, researchers from multiple universities discovered something very telling. They concluded that alcohol, not marijuana, is the most common first exposure to illegal substances. More than 50-percent of those surveyed reported that they had tried alcohol first. Only 14-percent claimed that their first exposure was to marijuana.
With marijuana representing such a small percentage of early substance exposure, claiming it’s a gateway drug would be inaccurate. Alcohol’s addictive potential, ability to alter decision-making and harmful effects on the body makes it a more appropriate scapegoat.
Emerging evidence is pointing to marijuana as an aid for individuals coming out of years of tobacco and alcohol abuse. It offers some of the same calming properties without the nastier side effects, providing hope for those struggling with addiction. As a result, marijuana is gaining momentum as an “exit drug” that’s likely to lead to more good than harm.
Lastly, it is important to consider the role of culture and a societal outlook on drugs and marijuana in general. While most consider drugs like cocaine and heroine to be hardcore and destructive, the number of people that view cannabis similarly is decreasing daily. De-stigmatization in popular culture and legalization efforts on state ballots make it likely that new generations will re-evaluate the ‘conventional wisdom’ that has hindered the progression and true understanding of marijuana.
U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch personally corroborated this evolved line of thinking. While speaking at a town hall meeting in Kentucky in September 2016, Lynch addressed the nation’s current heroin and opioid epidemic. She would continue to explain that abuse of prescription opioids is the more common starting point that leads to harsher drug problems. “It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before.”, says Lynch. “It’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana is a specific gateway.”
To sum up, labeling marijuana as a gateway to anything besides health and harmony would be misguiding and irresponsible.
Understanding is the first step towards healing. Medwell Health & Wellness makes the well-being of all of our patients the number one priority. If you’re suffering from a debilitating medical condition, contact us to see if medical marijuana is right for you!