Seeing through the smoke

Christopher Gallagher

Marijuana a gateway drug? Do people still really believe this?

Ar 171219584
David Holub/DGO; images via Adobe Stock
Ar 171219584
David Holub/DGO; images via Adobe Stock

The desperation is palpable. The opponents of cannabis have reached the end of their collective rope. Want to know how I know? They are recycling the “Gateway Drug” theory. Come on, people – have a little self-respect; there is a goddang opiate epidemic on!

This darling of Reagan Era puddle-deep thinking posits that the road to cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine hell is paved with broken bong glass and joint roaches. This “idea”(we are going with loose definitions of words like “idea” and “thought” today) has its roots in a 1930s line of thought known as Stepping Stone Theory; Researchers at the time observed that 100 percent of heroin addicts they observed had previously used cannabis, so (naturally, obviously) they concluded that the progression from one to the other was an inevitability. Now, I know pretty well how science works – hypothesis/experiment/conclusion/etc. – and I can confidently say that that analysis, with its willful ignorance of both causation as a standard and any analysis of the root causes of drug use and abuse (two different things, lest we forget) falls pretty far short of being a study on which to base generations of public policy ... unless ... unless that conclusion is the exact one desired by the creators and enforcers of said public policy.

While the tortured “any port in a storm” logic of Stepping Stone Theory becomes quickly obvious to anyone willing to examine it beyond the surface level, the American public policy of my younger days should be adequate proof that our nation’s citizenry’s strongest suit may not be our desire to look at things beyond the surface level. The statistics gathered during the interim eight or so decades of cannabis prohibition bear out the truth that most cannabis users do not, in fact, go on to do harder drugs; most do not even continue to use cannabis. Even the D.A.R.E. program has cast the Gateway Drug theory aside; if that is not evidence of its unsustainability as a foundation for any edifice destined for success, I don’t know what might be.

The Jeff Sessions and Chris Christies of the world should be embarrassed by the fact that they are reduced to using studies focused not on actual people but, rather, lab rats as subjects to analyze the effects of drugs like alcohol and cocaine on the human brain – as if there is a dearth of people willing to use alcohol and cocaine. It’s the 21st century, fellas. Get a clue.

The fact is that the current era is characterized, on the drug front, by two stark realities. First, the tidal wave of research indicating that cannabis is, in fact one of the most effective and versatile medicines available on Earth. The second is that there is an epidemic of opiate abuse taking place in our country, an epidemic measured in physical, mental, and emotional pain marked by broken individuals and the spiraling out of ruined relationships that accompany it. This real-time tragedy, created by the same pharmaceutical companies who spend millions to lobby against legal cannabis, burns a path straight to the graveyard and the coffins are not full of lab rats, I assure you.

But, here is the beauty beneath the surface of this mess. Mary Jane’s standards are different from the rest of society’s. She does not worry about the fickle rulemaking of legislators who think they can decide what is best for her relationship with the rest of us; she just keeps on growing. She will continue to do what she does and the men and women who choose to stand against her will try their best, as their predecessors did, to suppress the medicine and consciousness that emanate from this green goddess. And she, like Kali, will continue to lay them low.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at chrstphrgallagher@gmail.com.