For many, the idea that marijuana use may lead to the use of other drugs is a critical concern.
The scientific community has rejected this as a baseless fear for decades and commonly suggested that it is the very fact that marijuana is illegal that creates any links.
This has been confirmed by the government's most recent major study in 1999 ordered from IOM, but no political spokesman ever talks about this finding, and many continue to imply otherwise.
The real crime is that this view has been stressed by studies repeatedly and yet America's parents have been deprived of a crucial piece of information in their attempts to protect their children.
Marijuana actually seems to work as a gate stopper, substituting for the use of more dangerous drugs. See Gate Stopper on the right. This is a hugely important concept because it implies that increases in marijuana use would diminish the risks and harm associated with other drugs.
This also has alarming negative implications for the results of drug testing which detects marijuana far more easily than other drugs.
"[Marijuana] does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association."
"There is no evidence that it serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular physiological effect."
"Instead, the legal status of marijuana makes it a gateway drug."
-- IOM  "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" by The Institute of Medicine [IOM], 1999; commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy [ONDCP].)
"David Penington, former head of the Victorian Government's Drug Advisory Committee, argues that marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs for young people because it is illegal; ³The reality is that the gateway from marijuana to other drugs is the source of the marijuana. When marijuana is illicit, when its distribution is via an illicit trade, then the young who buy that marijuana also are offered heroin."
-- The Economics Of Marijuana Consumption, (Cites Penington as quoted in Malpeli and Martin, 1998.) Economic Research Centre, The University of Western Australia
"The phenomenon of overlapping markets involves the considerable risk of serious harm to cannabis users, who are predominantly young, occasional users who might not otherwise dabble with more dangerous substances.
- A 1993 study of drug dealers indicated that cannabis buyers might be willing or persuaded to buy cheap injectable amphetamines from them if cannabis turned out to be unavailable or expensive.
- A 1998 survey of 55 cannabis users found that 43 per cent of them had purchased their cannabis from suppliers who also offered them another illicit drug.
Clearly, a legislative approach to cannabis should avoid such harmful side effects and 'perverse incentives' as much as possible, and not cause more harm than it reduces. "
-- A Critical Overview of Australian Approaches to Cannabis Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 2001
"The U.K. had also become increasingly out of step with other European jurisdictions in the theoretical severity of the sanctions that could be applied (up to five years in jail) to otherwise law abiding people who have to rely on criminal suppliers to indulge their habit. This perversely facilitates dealers who have an incentive to get users hooked on more addictive and dangerous drugs."
- Dr. Charles Tannock (British Conservative; Member of the European Parliament from London), Wall Street Journal (Europe)21 Nov 2001
"It [marijuana] is not a gateway drug. There's nothing in the substance that leads to other drugs. The gateway is not the substance. It's the black market."
- Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, LLC, Chairman of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs [Canada] in Edmonton Sun, 12/12/02:
"Gen. McCaffery also ignored another finding of the report. The Institute of Medicine [said] there's no scientific basis for the "stepping stone" theory -- that chemical properties of marijuana lead to use of other drugs.
Thus, the Institute of Medicine suggests that what makes marijuana potentially dangerous in terms of leading to use of more dangerous drugs is the very fact that it is illegal. "
- The Orange County Register, editorial July 23, 1999
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an organ of the National Academy of Sciences, created by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters.
IOMs 1999 report " Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" was commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. [ONDCP]. Our government spent a million dollars of our money for the best medical advice they could find and promptly ignored it when the findings were not politically correct.
The NY Times [ March 18, 1999 ]: "The [IOM] report, the most comprehensive analysis to date of the medical literature about marijuana, said there was no evidence that giving the drug to sick people would increase illicit use in the general population. Nor is marijuana a 'gateway drug' that prompts patients to use harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, the study said."
Marijuana as a Gate Stopper
This vital element of seeing that one drug may substitute for another was closely examined during a brief interruption in the supply of Mexican marijuana in the late 60s. Even people who would never ordinarily use heroin began to do so.
Read the entire study of "OPERATION INTERCEPT"
"The Multiple Consequences of Public Policy  by Lawrence A. Gooberman
Lawrence A. Gooberman (Ph.D., The City University of New York) was Director of Social Services, Margaretville Memorial and Delaware Valley Hospitals. Dr. Gooberman has been a National Science Foundation Fellow and has done research for the Vera Institute of Justice and the President's Commission on Obscenity.
"These findings suggest that in a great many cases, the use of marihuana serves to suppress heavy involvement with the more dangerous substances."
" Most experts agree that a major effect of marihuana use is a decrease in the user's consumption of alcohol. "
" When suppression strategies are aimed at marihuana, which is widely considered to be far less dangerous to the individual and to the social order than other illicit drugs, the strategy seems to be especially ill-advised. ... Abuse of pharmaceuticals, such as drugs that contain belladonna, amyl nitrite, and codeine-containing cough medicines, which have been misused to a limited extent in the past but which are readily available, will increase. ... Alcohol abuse, especially by the young, will increase."
" 'The government line is that the use of marijuana leads to more dangerous drugs,' he [Dr. David E. Smith, director of the Haight-Ashbury Clinic in San Francisco] notes. 'The fact is that the lack of marijuana leads to the use of more dangerous drugs.' "