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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Gateway drugs, Dutch coffee shops and tax revenue

Leland Rucker: "How many times have you heard the argument that cannabis should remain illegal because it is a “gateway” drug, described as one that increases the risk that a user might try other, harder drugs?
The two arguments behind this theory are that a) there are pharmacological qualities in cannabis that actually lead users to try other drugs and/or b) that cannabis use puts users in places and situations where they are exposed to harder drugs.

About the first one, the science has been decidedly mixed, with the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal government always quoting studies that promote its “gateway” properties and ignoring others that suggest otherwise.

A Pew poll earlier this year found that 38 percent of Americans now believe cannabis is a gateway drug. That’s down from 60 percent in a 1977 Gallup poll, and a number that should continue dropping as support for legalization rises.

I’ve read several research papers on both sides, and I’m most apt to go with a Rand study published in 2002 that concludes that people who are predisposed to use drugs and have the opportunity to do so are more likely than others to use both marijuana and harder drugs, and that marijuana typically comes first because it is more available. Since I haven’t found a study that proves a causal relationship, and I know a lot of people who use cannabis but not other Schedule I drugs, this is the only one that makes any sense to me."

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