Gateway is a Slippery Slope

December 20, 2011

Rep. Barney Frank took on conservatives on ABC's This Week on Sunday by challenging the notion of the slippery-slope argument that has been made about marijuana as a gateway drug for the past thirty years.  Rep. Frank - who has introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession at the federal level - argues that it is not the government's job to limit the personal liberties of adults.  “I mean, personal liberty, if someone wants to smoke marijuana who’s an adult," Frank said, "why do you want to make them go to jail?”

This debate covered a wide range of topics, but the personal liberties section was quite interesting.  Rep. Fank - who I don't often find myself agreeing with - gave a good - although not too articulate -  explanation of how and why the government's propaganda of marijuana being a gateway drug is hogwash.  When Frank called on all members of the panel to support his bill to decriminalize marijuana, conservative columnist George Will responded that he would "...need to know more about whether it’s a gateway drug to other drugs. I need to know how you are going to regulate it, whether you’re going to advertise it.”

Rep. Frank responded by saying "[t]he fact that if somebody is doing something that’s not in itself wrong, that it might lead later on to something else then stop the something else. Don’t lock them up for smoking marijuana.”  I think what he was saying is that if the goal is to stop people from using hardcore drugs, then just outlaw the hardcore drugs, not marijuana. 

The government has for years championed this gateway drug argument, although there are no independently reviewed US studies that have found support for that argument.  There are US studies, however, that have found the exact opposite.  The University of Pittsburgh did a 12 year study on whether marijuana use by teenagers led to drug or alcohol abuse.  The study found that it did not.

I am not championing the use of marijuana - or any drug or alcohol - by teenagers.  I think studies have shown that the teenage brain is not quite fully developed yet, and should not be subjected to these substances.  I am saying that if the government wants to outlaw marijuana, then it needs to be honest with us citizens as to why it wants to do so instead of making up theories that find very little or no scientific evidence support. 

Do you think marijuana is a gateway drug?  Does it lead to harder drug use?  What evidence do you have to support your beliefs?