For a very long time marijuana opponents have tried to paint marijuana as a gateway drug that leads to almost certain abuse of other substances. It’s a slippery slope argument that opponents have made since the dawn of prohibition. The claim has no merit, but that hasn’t stopped opponents from going to that argument early and often. The latest politician to do so is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who, while expressing his opposition to legalization in New York, used the gateway drug argument to justify his opposition to legalization. Per Politico:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational use because he believes it is a “gateway drug,” he told reporters Wednesday.
“It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” the Democratic governor said before attending the grand opening of a new casino. “There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”
Cuomo needs to ditch that outdated rhetoric and get on the right side of history. The gateway drug theory has long since been debunked. All a person has to do is look at the math. 43% of American adults admit to having used marijuana at least once in their life. That’s over 104 million American adults based off of 2013 census data. A survey from 2013 found that 1.5 million adults use cocaine, and roughly half a million use methamphetamine. If you do the math, less than 1% of marijuana users go on to use meth, and just barely over 1% go on to use cocaine.
The fact of the matter is that most hardcore drug users started out using either a legal pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, or a household substance (huffing) well before they tried marijuana. What marijuana opponents try to do is put the cart before the horse and point to surveys which show that of the people that use drugs beyond marijuana, most of them have also tried marijuana at some point in their life. Framing it that way makes marijuana seem like a gateway drug. But what they fail to mention is the tens of millions of Americans that do not go on to use other substances. Whenever you hear the gateway argument being made, make sure to remember what Flavor Flav said – don’t believe the hype!