Back in my glory days of D.A.R.E, one of the heaviest charges leveled against pot was that was was a gateway drug. It was filled with stories (delightfully decorated with Simpson-esque illustrations) of kids who tried marijuana and went on to become crack-smoking heroin junkies. Indeed, the statistics they used were true, and appeared to back up their claims. Such claims have't been left in the mid-90s, either. Just a few weeks ago I read an advertisement proclaiming that 99% of people who have used heroin tried pot first. This is a prime example of manipulative statistics.

After all, why wouldn't someone smoke pot? Because they fear short term memory loss, perhaps, or do not wish to break the law. If a person did not care about these consequences, then they would probably find no reason not to become a pothead (unless they had no money). Someone who takes heroin has already proven they don't give a shit about their body or the law.

In summery, it is difficult to imagine a reason a junkie wouldn't smoke pot. The same could be said for almost any gateway drug argument. The entire idea is just bullshit concocted by people whose job it is to nullify pot consumption.
In my opinion, marijuana wouldn't be a gateway drug if it were legal.

Here's how I think it works:

  1. Before you've ever tried pot, you've been told by all sorts of mainstream authorities (parents, schools, wholesome celebrities, politicians, etc.) that pot is evil, and that within 2 weeks of smoking pot for the first time you will end up homeless on the street giving hand jobs for crack.
     
  2. You try pot anyway.
     
  3. It turns out that most of the warnings you heard about pot were lies and propaganda.
     
  4. You conclude, logically, that everything mainstream authorities are telling you about drugs should be looked upon skeptically. Since smoking pot turned out to be a pretty good thing, you decide it makes sense to try some other illegal drugs. "Maybe there's even a correlation between how dangerous the authorities try to make a drug sound and how good it actually is..."

When I was a teenager my parents, etc. were pretty honest with me about marijuana, alcohol, and mushrooms (or at least they exposed me to honest information), so when they gave me warnings about coke and heroin, they had some credibility left.

I think every teenager should be given a copy of the book From Chocolate to Morphine : Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs by Andrew Weil M.D. and Winifred Rosen. It's got honest information about all kinds of drugs, and excellent first hand accounts from users and abusers -- everything a young person or adult needs to make informed decisions about what drugs to use, how to limit risks when using various types of drugs, and why it's probably a terrible idea to use I.V. drugs.

Interestingly enough, I just did an essay on this. One of my best sources was Paul Hager's "Marijuana Myths" which I found at http://www.marijuana-hemp.com/cin/facts/marmyt1.shtml.
If I may invoke fair use:
This is one of the more persistent myths. A real world example of what happens when marijuana is readily available can be found in Holland. The Dutch partially legalized marijuana in the 1970s. Since then, hard drug use -- heroin and cocaine -- have declined substantially. If marijuana really were a gateway drug, one would have expected use of hard drugs to have gone up, not down. This apparent "negative gateway" effect has also been observed in the United States. Studies done in the early 1970s showed a negative correlation between use of marijuana and use of alcohol. A 1993 Rand Corporation study that compared drug use in states that had decriminalized marijuana versus those that had not, found that where marijuana was more available -- the states that had decriminalized -- hard drug abuse as measured by emergency room episodes decreased. In short, what science and actual experience tell us is that marijuana tends to substitute for the much more dangerous hard drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin.
That's pretty darn interesting and just about debases the whole gateway drug argument. When you look at the "marijuana is bad!" argument, the only thing that it had going for it was the gateway drug defense. It's been shown time and time again that the negative aspects of marijuana are infinitesimal, or at least, less that some legal drugs.

Hardlinking and bolding by me.

Marijuana wouldn't be a gateway drug if it was legal. The government used the argument that marijuana led to harder drugs back in the sixties, namely that it leads to deadly heroin. In the eighties and nineties the big scare drug was crack. As of lately the partnership for a drug-free America has been shying away from the more outlandish claims of insanity, rape compulsion, violence and death and manly focusing on the more believable, but still not entirely true, allegation that marijuana will turn you into a boring zombie. However, the "gateway drug" theory is only valid for marijuana when a person must go to the black market to get it. "Gateway drug" is not a phenomenon based on a need to increase the high produced by a drug. It is a factor of availability among social groups. When you make friends with one person who smokes pot, you'll meet nine more. Of those ten people, maybe one of those people is, or has a friend who, uses and can get cocaine. If, through your choice, you happen to pursue the opportunity to try this drug, then you have passed through the 'gateway' to a second tier of social collectivism; you are now amongst cocaine users. Amongst these new acquaintances, you may meet someone who can get heroin. And the process repeats itself.

Now imagine that pot can be bought at your local supermarket, provided you show ID that shows you're over 18. Suddenly you don't have to be in a social loop to get the stuff, and as a result, you are by default not made privy to the availability of other illegal drugs.

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