Of all the contentious issue around the morality of pot stocks, one of the biggest battle lines has been drawn around the issue of whether marijuana use leads to the use of harder drugs.
Here’s how hard it is to get to a clear answer: in the top responses to the Google query, “Is pot a gateway drug?” here’s what popped up:
- Using Marijuana May Not Raise the Risk of Using Harder Drugs | RAND
- Marijuana Has Proven to Be a Gateway Drug – NYTimes.com
- Once and for All, Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug – VICE
- Marijuana Is Now Teens’ Most Popular First Drug – The Atlantic
Two for and two against – and quite definitive on both sides!
Gateway Issues Explored
The gateway theory is simply that marijuana is likely to be used before advancing to ‘harder’ drugs such as opioids. The reasons this might be true fall into two categories
- The National Institute of Health (NIH) describes this category as “priming the brain to experience greater addictive effects from other drugs”.
- The second reason for marijuana as a gateway drug, also from the NIH, more as an illegal substance (previously and still in most states) marijuana first is likely due to accessibility and lower cost, and then the relationships built with other users/dealers gives increased exposure to other, more dangerous drugs. And any dealer worth their salt will want to upsell repeat clients to more expensive/higher margin “product”. Interestingly, this is also an argument for legalization: if one doesn’t have to go to a black-market dealer to get pot, but can get it in a legal outlet, that relationship with the upselling dealer doesn’t start in the first place.
Let’s look at that second point again, because many believe that there’s an even more important point that could lead to a reduction in pot’s gateway potential. That’s the fact that until recently, anyone buying pot was breaking the law. And there are well-known links indicating people who have broken the law are willing to do so again. With that stigma and inertia of a “first illegal act” broken down, the theory is that law-abiding pot users will be less likely to go to the black market for the harder stuff.
And there is the complete flipside – that pot is the opposite of a gateway drug and actually reduces the use of harder drugs and is safer alternative to opioid use, especially for those with chronic pain…