Cannabis Is Not a Gateway Drug As Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Claims [Opinion]

Cannabis is a gateway drug!

This myth has been repeated time and time again by people who, for a variety of reasons, wish to demonize cannabis, a plant that has been used by humans for thousands of years for medicine, meditation, and relaxation. But as with many myths, its usefulness to push the agenda of those who tell it is not equal to its validity. In fact, as Newsweek has reported, the science is pretty clear: cannabis is not a gateway drug.

The gateway theory emphasizes the idea that somehow using cannabis desensitizes users to the effects of the drug, causing them to seek bigger and better (and far more dangerous) highs. The problem is that this poorly developed theory comes with no real supporting evidence, just empty conjecture and selective use of statistical findings. In fact, the main factors that can be seen as contributing to an overall “gateway” into the use of hard drugs have nothing at all to do with cannabis. Newsweek notes that studies have shown poverty, peer pressure, and mental illness are factors that contribute to the creation of a “gateway” into the world of illicit use of hard drugs.

cannabis gateway drug
There is little scientific basis to support the gateway theory of cannabis. [Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Despite what may seem obvious to the large number of Americans who have joyfully and safely indulged in the use of cannabis over the course of their lives but did not go on to become meth, crack, or heroin addicts, the federal government continues to push the gateway theory as though it is cold, hard fact.

Initially popularized by infamous anti-drug-warrior Harry Anslinger in the 1950s, the United States government on its official National Institute on Drug Abuse website continues to cite studies that mistake correlation for causation as evidence for its position that cannabis is a gateway drug. In fact, on the website, they even admit that the studies they link to don’t really prove the gateway drug hypothesis.

“These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a gateway drug,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse website states. “However, the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances.”

Essentially, the government’s official position is that they realize the gateway theory is unproven and based on indeterminate science, but they’re going to keep promoting it anyway.

This is apparently the motivation of key members of the Trump administration. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an ardent anti-cannabis crusader. According to NBC News, Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has now joined the chorus of government employees perpetuating the gateway myth in an effort to demonize cannabis and its users.

“Let me be clear about marijuana. It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs,” Kelly said during a speech at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books.”

cannabis gateway drug john kelly
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly answers questions during a press conference related to President Donald Trump's recent executive order concerning travel and refugees, January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. On Monday night, President Donald Trump fired the acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she released a statement saying the Justice Department would not enforce the president's executive order that places a temporary ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It’s all about control of the population for a variety of reasons. Criminalizing cannabis is big money for local law enforcement agencies and for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Due to the public increasingly having a more accepting view of cannabis and the growing number of states legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use, a lot of people’s cash cows are potentially in jeopardy. The private prison industry is also opposed, as their profits rely on an influx of prisoners, many of whom are incarcerated due to crimes involving the growing and sale of cannabis. According to Republic Report, the top five groups lobbying against legal cannabis are police unions, private prison corporations, alcohol companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and prison guard unions, all of which have clear profit motives that should disturb any American who cares about the concepts of truth and justice.

Perhaps most hypocritical of those five groups is the pharmaceutical industry. According to CBS New York, approximately 75 percent of heroin addictions beginning in the 2000s started with the use of prescription opioid painkillers, a major cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry. No wonder they invest so much in the demonization of cannabis. It takes the heat off of their own role in pushing the real gateway drugs.

That the federal government, including top members of the Trump administration, continues to push the gateway myth about cannabis should be a wake-up call to all Americans that the government’s job is first and foremost to make life better for the lobbyists and corporations that put money in the wallets of politicians to get their agendas passed. It’s time for a sensible federal cannabis policy, and that includes nothing short of the complete de-scheduling and decriminalization of cannabis.


[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]