Why This Ex-Pothead Thinks Marijuana is NOT a “Gateway Drug”

I smoked a ton of weed in my younger days, then spawned aspirations of becoming a pilot and had to clean things up a bit.

I dabbled in harder drugs – Crank (snorting Meth), Acid, Ecstasy.  I never got hooked on any of it, so walking away from the drug scene was relatively easy.  But for me, smoking marijuana didn’t hatch some kind of craving for harder drugs, or even a craving for more marijuana.

My friends and I transitioned to the harder stuff because weed was illegal.  The only place we could get it was from the kind of individual who was comfortable taking significant legal risks, who also didn’t live with too much concern for our wellbeing.  Enter the drug dealer – usually someone we knew, who lived in our community, one of us – someone who was easy to trust.

A Gateway Community

We all knew a dealer, and it was super cool to have a dime bag on you, so these people became our “friends.”  They were experts at marketing – making hard drugs cool.   “Hey, let’s do a line together.  Really appreciate you.  You deserve it” they would chant.  Then they’d talk about the deal they were willing to give you because of your special relationship.

Without the dealers, who always had the harder stuff, and who were always angling to get it in our hands, none of us would have transitioned.

Marijuana wasn’t a gateway drug, it was a gateway community, and at the center of it all were the dealers.

Legalize marijuana and you take the dealer out of the picture.  Take the dealer out of the picture and exposure to the hard stuff goes way down.  And since smoking weed doesn’t cause anyone to have deeper cravings beyond junk food and a good nap, fewer people – young people especially – will go looking for the bad stuff.

Make marijuana illegal and the dealers are back in business, not just selling weed, but transitioning so many into drugs that are truly dangerous.  I’m not suggesting that legalizing marijuana will make our drug problems miraculously vanish, I’m just surprised at how clueless we are about how effective dealers are at their craft, and how legalized marijuana takes such a huge bite out of their market.

The War on _______?

As our country continues to drink itself to death, the current administration is trying to convince us all that marijuana is a terrible thing – that we need to wage war, so we can get a handle on this grave threat.  I’ve never seen anyone wreck their life from a weed “addiction,” if that’s even a thing.  Alcohol?  I’m in my early fifties, watching so many of my friends struggle – struggling myself.  If our government cared, you’d hear more about the substances that are truly waging war with our wellbeing.

But there might be an agenda here for J.B. Sessions and his squad.  While whites smoke a ton more of the Devil’s lettuce than blacks, for the last twenty years or so we’ve incarcerated far more blacks for it.  Regan’s drug war, the one Sessions is trying to resurrect, the one so many social activists call “The War on Blacks,” might have little to do with marijuana, and more to do with the spirit that’s been having its way with our country since her inception.

I haven’t smoked in 30 years but recently, on a guy’s trip to the West coast, somebody stopped at a dispensary on the way to our condo.  It was legal where we were staying so I tried a hit – one hit – and got completely annihilated, ate a large bag of peanut M&M’s, drank two G&T’s, watched 18 straight episodes of “Arrested Development,” and was reminded of why I stopped smoking in the first place.  I wasn’t attended by any cravings for more drugs, or tear-filled memories of the “good ol’ days” as a user of harder things.

While I do think that our current production methods are cranking out a vastly stronger product, and that there are some things to discuss there, I’m still convinced that the “gateway drug” argument is silly, but used to fuel fears that lead us into policies that are unjust, and distract us from more pressing issues.