FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”

Like nearly all Americans of a certain age, I was told in school that tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are gateway drugs — and that is why marijuana should remain illegal.

First of all, even if you accept that these three substances are “gateways” to something worse, why is it that adults can use alcohol and tobacco legally, but not marijuana?

This is particularly outrageous given that, unlike alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana has a wide range of medical applications.

Other than prescription opioids, marijuana is the only drug that relieves my chronic migraines. I like that it doesn’t come with the addiction or overdose risks that opioids do, and I want to use it legally and under a doctor’s supervision.

Unfortunately, I live in Wisconsin, where even medical uses are illegal.

For me, marijuana is a gateway to relief from headaches, not a gateway to harder drugs. Legal medical marijuana allows me to decrease my use of opioids.

Senator Kamala Harris recently reframed the gateway idea in another way. The war on drugs approach of criminalizing marijuana, she said, “is the gateway to America’s problem with mass incarceration.” As a former prosecutor and drug warrior who now supports decriminalization, she would know.

While I was sitting through D.A.R.E. classes in school, others were being criminalized and locked up for nonviolent drug offenses.

These harsh drug laws and strict sentencing guidelines were not enforced equally, either. Although blacks and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates (white people actually use drugs a bit more), black people are 6.5 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses.

In part this is because law enforcement spends more time looking for drugs in communities of color than in white communities. They could have found plenty of drugs and underage drinking among the rich kids in the dorms and frat houses of the mostly white, elite private school where I went to college, but they weren’t looking.

After the arrest, racial disparities continue, disadvantaging low income people and people of color at every stage of the judicial process. The racial disparities continue even after someone has paid their debt to society. A black person with a felony record faces more employment discrimination than an equally qualified white person with a felony record.

It seems like the war on drugs is on its way out, although not quickly enough. The tide is turning toward medical usage of marijuana and even some psychedelics, legalized recreational marijuana in some states, and handling addiction with treatment instead of prison.

Yet marijuana is still fully criminalized at the federal level and in many states (I’m looking at you, Wisconsin).

Many jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana have also expunged the criminal records of anyone convicted of nonviolent, low-level marijuana offenses. But there’s no way to give them back the years of their lives they spent locked up for pot.

Why are we still paying taxpayer dollars to incarcerate cannabis users, taking them away from their jobs and their families? Our current path is a gateway to misery. Let’s choose another.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
Steve Martinot
The Desire to Kill
David Yearsley
The War on Kitsch
Amy Eva Alberts Warren – Rev. William Alberts
Why are Certain Christians Democratic and Others Authoritarian?
Lawrence Davidson
Covid Madness
Brian Cloughley
Britain’s Disorder and Decline
Ellen Taylor
The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World
David Rosen
White Nationalists on the Attack
Jeff Cohen
Politicians of Color Should Not be Immune From Criticism
Joseph Natoli
Drawn Away from Reality in Plain View
Frank Joyce
Give Me Liberty,  Give You Death
Jonah Raskin
My Adventures in the Matriarchy
Paul Street
The Racist Counter-Revolution of 1776
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Corruption of the Democratic Party: Talking to Ted Rall about his new book
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Record on Foreign Policy: Lost Wars, New Conflicts and Broken Promises
Paul Edwards
A Bridge Too Far
Jennifer Joan Thompson
How to Do Things With Theses: Chile’s National Police Force Sues the Feminist Artistic Collective, Las Tesis
Shawn Fremstad
Vacations for All!
Thomas Knapp
A Modest Proposal for Compromise on “Confederate” Military Bases
Vijay Prashad, Eduardo Viloria Daboín, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Venezuela’s Borderlands Have Been Assaulted by COVID-19
Thom Hartmann
COVID Masks: The Latest Faux Conservative Outrage
Jesse Jackson
Mandatory College Football Practices in Time of Pandemic are Nuts
Nicholas Vincenzo Barney
Consensus Politics on the Fringe: The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Intellectual Dark Web
Ted Rall
The Data is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden
Joshua Tartakovsky
Sergei Khrushchev: An Eulogy from His Close Student
Theresa Church
In Reconsidering ‘Normalcy’ Genetically Engineered Trees Do Not Belong
Chelsea Carrick
Let’s Not Lose Momentum
Adam Rissien
Sorry Secretary Perdue, Our National Forests are Not Crops
Paul Gilk
A Few Theoretical Percentages
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”:  A Phrase That’s Tells us Very Little, if Anything,  About the Actual Levels of Danger We  Face
Claire Chadwick
I Got COVID-19 at Work. I Won’t be the Last
George Wuerthner
The Upper Green River Should be a National Park, Not a Feedlot
Julian Vigo
Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19
Ravi Mangla
Policing is Not a Public Good
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail