Cannabis as a Gateway

The claim that Cannabis use leads to the use of more dangerous narcotics has been spewed since the start of its prohibition. Originally purely a scare tactic, it picked up steam through the years largely from studies much like one released from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999. This study illustrated that people who have tried Cannabis are 104 times more likely to try cocaine than those who haven’t. This notion has been all but dispelled given the number of studies that have shown Cannabis in fact, specifically, does not cause a progression to further drug use.

There is, unfortunately, the sad truth that the plant’s illegality is catalytic for a number of complications. Lately as more states move towards some form of a marketplace, be it medical or recreational, there continue to be incidents that fester as symptoms of a much older, deeper problem.

To start, there’s the finding from the Tampa Bay Times that showed 1 in 5 of the 1,432 doctors operating in Florida’s medical marijuana program have had malpractice cases brought against them in previous careers. Because the medical program is so restrictive, making it unattractive to many quality physicians, around 260 in the program have or still are facing charges of malpractice.The offenses range anywhere from falsifying records to misdiagnoses, and even sexual assault. Malpractice certainly exists in other medical fields, but it’s closer to around 7% across the board—not 20%.

Its federally illegal status has now made Cannabis a gateway to the allowance of further irresponsible practices by licensed physicians (as it seems to be continuing) and the placement of the safety of medical patients in jeopardy—many of whom are new to Cannabis consumption.

Recently, in an interview with the Boston Globe Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), made claims that not only go against findings of current and historical research; but that also highlight her extreme conflict of interest. NIDA happens to be the only entity in the U.S. licensed to cultivate Cannabis for clinical research purposes. She claims that legalization will cause further addiction, despite absolutely no research indicating any development of a physiological dependence. She also claims that Cannabis “dumbs” you down, referring to use in adolescence being a marker for slowed cognitive development. This is despite studies illustrating that impacts on this development are negligible.

In the case of our dear old director, Cannabis being federally illegal has further opened the gateway to a tone, language, and potential crafting of policy based in ignorance and historical precedent.

And there are incalculable other destructive forces that we notice because Cannabis remains illegal. There are environmental impact issues that need to be addressed. We have an opioid addiction and dependence problem in this country that’s increasing nearly exponentially; a horrendous system of profiteering from human incarceration; and the most abysmal probability of all. It’s terrifying to consider that those in charge of forming policy and public perception know the extent of the damage, and continue business as usual anyway.

While Cannabis itself is not a gateway of any kind; it’s status earns the egregious problems that go along with it. Yes, the number of heroin addiction sufferers who started with Cannabis is a prevailing majority—positive correlation. But if asked, one might also find that the number of heroin addiction sufferers also tried chocolate milk before they tried heroin—another positive correlation. And the vast majority of people who try Cannabis never move on to more dangerous substances—no causal relationship.

The traditional gateway theory is ludicrous. Cannabis remaining illegal, however, is revealing some of the ugliest and most complex problems our society has to face. This is a long fucking road ahead. There’s a lot more to learn and seemingly less time to absorb it. But taking the information we have now and acting responsibly on it will enable us to influence real, lasting change.


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