When former vice president Joe Biden asserted over the weekend that marijuana shouldn’t be legal because it might be a “gateway” to hard drug use, pro-legalization critics were quick to paint him as an out-of-touch codger still fighting the last drug war. But the reaction isn’t entirely fair: Yes, the marijuana gateway theory that was omnipresent in the 1980s was at best distorted and at worst dishonest. Nevertheless, gateways between marijuana and other addictive substances are real — and they swing in both directions.
During the heyday of anti-marijuana sentiment in America, fear-based prevention programs warned adolescents that a huge percentage of adults who experienced some horrible drug-related outcome (e.g., becoming addicted to heroin) had used marijuana when they were younger. These statistics were technically accurate, but even as teenagers, most of my classmates and I could see the logical flaws in the implication that marijuana was inevitably a road to ruin. Just because most people who used heroin had previously used marijuana didn’t prove that most people who used marijuana would go on to use heroin.
But strip away that era’s ideological agenda, designed to assign marijuana a unique and powerful role in ruining lives, and a more nuanced underlying truth about gateways reveals itself. People who become users of almost any addictive substance are at higher risk of subsequently using and having problems with other substances. [Read More @ The Washington Post]