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Marijuana and the Gateway theory

  • What is the Gateway theory?
    Some people claim that using marijuana will make you want to use other drugs, like heroin, cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, and ecstasy. They argue that marijuana acts as a stepping stone, or a gateway, that leads people to harder drugs. They support their argument with statistics that show that most people who use hard drugs have tried marijuana before.

  • What's wrong with the Gateway theory?
    The gateway theory doesn't really explain anything. It's just an observation that has been distorted. It's true that hard drug users generally try marijuana before they try hard drugs, but that's only because marijuana is more popular and easier to obtain than other illegal drugs. The more important observation is that MOST people who use marijuana DO NOT go on to use harder drugs. There is nothing special about using marijuana that makes people want to use harder drugs.

  • What's really going on?
    In essence, the link between marijuana and other illegal drugs stems from the fact that they are illegal. Because they are illegal, marijuana and other drugs are only available on the black market, and anyone who enters the drug market is likely to be exposed to more than one drug. The solution is simple: by legalizing and regulating marijuana sales, we will eliminate the connection to hard drugs.

  • But don't just take our word for it
    According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse),
    "Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs. So there is more of a risk that a marijuana user will be exposed to and urged to try more drugs." (From Marijuana: Facts for Teens, 1998).
    This quote from the NIDA really supports what we are saying; the connection between marijuana and hard drugs exists BECAUSE marijuana is illegal. We need to legalize and regulate marijuana to close the 'gateway.'

  • The Institute of Medicine agrees that the marijuana-gateway theory is misleading:
    "In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a "gateway" drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, "gateway" to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs." (from the Executive Summary of the IOM report Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base)

  • Research Indicates Teen Marijuana Use Does Not Predict Drug or Alcohol Abuse: a 12-year study at the University of Pittsburgh refutes the 'marijuana gateway' hypothesis (December 2006).

  • A RAND study finds serious flaws in the marijuana 'Gateway' theory (Posted December 6, 2002).

  • Other Resources about the Gateway Theory

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