New Study Provides More Evidence Against “Gateway” Theory


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A study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse adds even more evidence showing that marijuana use itself does not cause people to use harder drugs.

HealthDay reports:

“We found that marijuana use within itself wasn’t a risk factor for use of other drugs,” said lead author Joseph Palamar, an assistant professor in the New York University Langone Medical Center’s department of population health. “People do generally use marijuana before other drugs, but that doesn’t mean marijuana is a cause of [using] those other drugs.”

The researchers based their conclusions on data gathered from Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes and values of American high school students. Roughly 15,000 high school seniors are assessed each year.

“Most teens who use marijuana don’t progress to use of other drugs, and we believe this is evidenced in part by the fact that nearly two-thirds of these marijuana-using teens did not report use of any of the other illicit drugs we examined,” he noted.

These results show that educators and counselors would do better to prevent drug use if they focus on the reasons that students give for trying illicit substances, Palamar concluded.

“We need to address the reasons why people use, the drives that lead people to use,” he said. “The majority of adults in the U.S. have at least tried marijuana, and we know the majority has never gone on to use another drug, yet we tend to treat all drug use as pathological.”

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Study Estimates £1.25 Billion Annually From Tax and Regulation of Marijuana in England


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The Institute for Social and Economic Research, ISERwith the University of Essex, recently concluded a study into a cost benefit analysis of regulating and taxing marijuana in England and Wales. The study examined the potential economic benefits of regulation, as well as examining the possible social costs and social benefits of a policy change. The study, which was led by economics professor Stephen Pudney, found that England and Wales could save up to £300m per year on policing, prosecuting, and treatment if marijuana were regulated. Furthermore, by taxing marijuana, England and Wales stand to make a possible £900m per year. According to the study, the total possible tax benefit would be around £1.25 billion per year.

When attempting to quantify social costs and benefits, the researchers considered implications on mental health, what value marijuana users place on the benefits of marijuana, as well as other social factors. When examining the possibility of regulated marijuana causing a gateway for users to harsher illicit drugs, which previous studies have shown to be false, the researchers here also concluded that the gateway effect was weak or negligible. The real risk of a gateway effect, they said, is on the side of distribution, a risk that would be decreased with regulation.

Another greatly exaggerated focus of the public debate on cannabis policy is the “gateway effect” – the possible increase in risk of involvement in hard drugs caused by exposure to cannabis.  In our view, the evidence for a large gateway effect among cannabis consumers is weak, and there is an often-overlooked offsetting gateway on the supply side, drawing cannabis users into drug dealing.  Licensing of supply might lead to a rise in demand and thus harm through the demand gateway, but it would also remove many people from illicit cannabis supply and thus reduce harm through the supply gateway.  We estimate the reform could generate a net external benefit in the range £20-80m under the most plausible assumption of a moderate demand increase.

The report concluded with a call for more research into marijuana consumption, price, and potency. Want to know more? Read the full report here.

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Henry Rollins Supports Marijuana Reform


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Singer, poet, public speaker, and talk show host Henry Rollins has joined the growing ranks of public figures who support ending marijuana prohibition.

Rollins is not a marijuana user, either. As more and more people realize that marijuana prohibition is a harmful failure, the myth that only potheads want to make it legal is continuing to fade into the hazy realm of reefer madness.

From a column he penned for last week’s LA Weekly: Read the rest of this entry »

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Researchers Debunk the Gateway Theory … Again


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For decades, prohibitionists have claimed that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that inevitably leads to use of harder substances like heroin and cocaine — despite the fact that every objective study ever done on the gateway theory has determined that it’s absolute crap.

Last week, researchers at the University of New Hampshire released yet another study discrediting the gateway theory. Their findings, based on survey data from more than 1,200 students in Florida public schools, showed that a person’s likelihood to use harder drugs has more to do with social and environmental factors than whether or not they’ve ever tried marijuana.

“There seems to be this idea that we can prevent later drug problems by making sure kids never smoke pot,” lead researcher Dr. Karen Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology at UNH, told CBS News. “But whether marijuana smokers go on to use other illicit drugs depends more on social factors like being exposed to stress and being unemployed – not so much whether they smoked a joint in the eighth grade.” Read the rest of this entry »

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The Gateway Drug: Your Genes?


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The question of why some kids start using alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs at a young age remains a source of controversy. How much of a role do genes play? The environment — peers, parents, educational efforts? What about the “gateway theory,” the idea that one drug — marijuana is the most likely to be blamed — leads to use of others?

A new study of twins recently published online by the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that genes may play a large role, but to some degree every drug is a gateway drug. Read the rest of this entry »

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MPP Responds to Photo of Olympic Champ Caught Smoking Marijuana


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MPP’s Bruce Mirken appeared on CNN Sunday night to discuss the news that a 23-year-old American male had been photographed using marijuana at a college party.

Bruce’s interview occurs at about 6:40 on the video below. In it, he shoots down the “gateway” myth, demonstrates prohibition’s many failures, and points out how absurd it is that of the 100 million Americans who have used marijuana, anybody should care that one of them is Michael Phelps.

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MPP’s Pen Pal


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You wouldn’t know it from their Web site, but it turns out the White House drug czar’s office is legally required to provide the public with facts that are, well, factual. Under the Data Quality act, all government agencies, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy, are responsible for “ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information.”

You could print out the material on ONDCP’s site, throw a dart at the printout, and probably hit an assertion that’s at least suspect. We picked one we found particularly egregious – the demonstrably false title of the drug czar’s publication, “Marijuana: The Greatest Cause of Illegal Drug Abuse.”

On Oct. 16, 2008, my colleague, Nathan Miller, an attorney here, filed a petition calling on the drug czar to correct the title, which obviously refers to the long discredited “gateway theory” fantasy (see Question 6). Read the rest of this entry »

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Common Sense From Canada


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In its December issue, the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published an essay by psychiatrist Stephen Kisely, who divides his time between Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, titled, “The Case for Policy Reform in Cannabis Control.” Kisely’s essay is so full of logic and common sense that the best thing to do is just quote it at length:

“The lack of evidence for prohibition is highlighted by the fact that penalties bear little relation to the actual harm associated with cannabis. The Runciman Report, commissioned by the Police Federation in the United Kingdom, no less, concluded that both alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than cannabis; nonetheless, there is no suggestion that prohibition should play a part in controlling their use. … Read the rest of this entry »

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“Gateway Effect” — Is It Just Genetics?


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Okay, I’m a bit behind in my reading, but a study published last month in the journal Addiction casts an interesting light on the so-called “gateway effect” — the idea that use of one drug, usually marijuana, somehow leads to use of others.

Gateway associations have regularly been found between tobacco and marijuana: Young people who use one are pretty consistently more likely to use the other as well. But does tobacco cause kids to smoke marijuana, marijuana cause kids to use tobacco, or are both tendencies the result of other factors entirely?

The new study, by researchers in Queensland, Australia, and St. Louis, suggests that genetics, not the effects of any particular drug, are at the heart of these associations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Silly Season in Massachusetts


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On Saturday, New Bedford Standard-Times columnist Jack Spillane weighed with an eminently sensible and amusing take on the opposition to Question 2 , the marijuana decriminalization initiative on the November ballot in Massachusetts. He quotes some funny/scary dialogue from the press conference held by prosecutors and other opponents that managed to escape the notice of other reporters. The silliness begins with Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter:

And “I don’t want to hear,” he said, those “specious” and “bogus” arguments that marijuana is like alcohol. Alcohol, he informed the media event, can have health benefits. You know, like wine, he said.

And tobacco? Why, that takes a long time to do damage, he informed.

Ah, Sam, say it ain’t so.

Not to be outdone, Fall River Mayor Bob Correia trotted out the time-tested “gateway” argument.

“Marijuana,” he said, is “the one they start our children off with!” Read the rest of this entry »

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