Letter to the Editor: Marijuana ‘a gateway drug’ not supported by evidence

With legislation pending to legalize marijuana in Delaware, some of the comments from opponents show how badly we have misinformed our citizens during the 40-year-long “war on drugs”! Perhaps the most telling sign of this is the comment that marijuana is “a gateway drug”… suggesting that legalization will lead pot smokers to meth, crack cocaine, heroin, and other more insidious drugs.

To the extent that marijuana acts as a social gateway to other drugs, legalization slams that gateway shut. In Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and The District of Columbia, marijuana is sold not by drug pushers but by heavily regulated dispensaries, which sell only one drug. The chances of being offered hard drugs under the counter in a Denver pot shop are roughly the same as being offered cocaine along with your beer by a cashier in Walmart.

It will be years before the full effects of legalization are known — after all, an academic debate continues about the impact of the Prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s and 30s. But the bigger picture suggests that there is little reason to panic. In the past few years, the number of monthly marijuana users in America has steadily risen, from 14.4 million in 2007 to 18.9 million in 2012. If marijuana were a gateway to harder drugs, one might expect those drugs to become more popular too. Yet during the same period, consumption of most other substances actually fell. The number of monthly cocaine users dipped from 2.1 million to 1.7 million and the number of people using methamphetamine (“crystal meth”) fell from 530,000 to 440,000. Heroin use has been going up, but the gateway drug there seems to be prescription painkillers.

There are several articles on our website showing that a) Alcohol is more a “gateway drug” than marijuana, b) Studies show that using marijuana does not itself lead to the desire for other drugs — totally debunking the “gateway” theory, and c) Prohibition is the “gateway” to drugs.

As many police officers now say: “Cut the crap; legalize pot”!

Ken Abraham


Editor’s note: Ken Abraham of Dover is founder of Citizens for Criminal Justice. He was a deputy attorney general from 1974-1979.

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