How did marijuana come to be considered a “gateway drug“? Could it be perhaps, because it is typically the easiest to acquire and cultivate, yet the most difficult to hide or obscure, due to its strong scent and the length of time it stays in the system? Often police use probable cause to justify searching a home or vehicle, claiming they can smell marijuana. Drug tests can detect the presence of marijuana that is stored in fat tissues for up to 30 days. So, perhaps many cannabis users move on to other drugs simply because they’re less detectable, both by the human sense of smell, and through drug testing methods. Most other substances that would cause one to fail a drug test only stay in the body for a few days, or a week at most. That can make a considerable difference when a person is considering the possible consequences of getting caught with something either on their person or in their system.
One of the biggest concerns of those who view marijuana as a gateway drug is the habits of young people. However, the drugs that are most commonly introduced to youth are tobacco and alcohol. These substances are much more readily available to most young people, so it’s doubtful that marijuana would be the first mind-altering substance that most encounter. But, we still seem to have this enduring myth that marijuana use is what leads people to try other more harmful drugs. Even some of our more uninformed politicians will brazenly state that marijuana is a gateway drug, in complete ignorance of the facts. Most everyone knows about New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s recent statements about how he will crack down on states who have legalized recreational marijuana, if elected President. He even went so far as to call marijuana a gateway drug during the most recent Republican Presidential debate.
According to the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group, factcheck.org, the issue is too complicated to really determine exactly what factors come into play when a person moves from one drug to another. There are biological, social, and cultural reasons that someone may be more or less apt to abuse any drugs and “some research has found plausible biological ways in which marijuana — and, notably, nicotine and alcohol — could ‘prime’ the brain and make one more likely to abuse other drugs, but this research is largely in rats and is not conclusive.” On this line of thinking, whatever the first drug a person experiments with will in a way prepare the brain for more of the same. However, in considering the detrimental health effects of both tobacco and alcohol, it seems marijuana would be the best choice, really. But then, there are some that would say the cycle won’t end there. Some believe that at a certain point, a person’s tolerance to marijuana will lead them to move on to seek other drugs, because the main reason for using it in the first place is to escape reality. This view of drug use is just ludicrous, and is most likely untrue for most people who use marijuana.
It has taken a long time for our country to move toward reforming public policy in regard to the legality of cannabis. Now that we finally have a significant portion of states with medical marijuana laws on the books, hopefully more Americans will start accepting the fact that not only does marijuana have medicinal qualities, it has many other purposes that make it an invaluable plant for human beings. Just the range of physical and psychological conditions that it’s useful in treating are astounding. And to think, we’ve gone so long being misinformed and fearful of it for so many nonsensical reasons.
Aside from any of this, it seems more and more that what science is actually revealing is that cannabis is a staple of the human diet, not only nutritionally, but energetically as well. This would explain why so many people can benefit from it in so many ways, and also why those benefits can be conferred to the human body through various methods of ingestion. One can process the plant’s leaves to make a smoothie or juice, hemp seeds can be made into an oil, or hulled to be eaten raw, and obviously, the budding flowers of the marijuana plant can be dried and smoked, which might seem counter intuitive when considering the goal of receiving health benefits. However, there is reason to believe that, even though smoking any sort of plant material will inevitably leave tar residues in the lungs, cannabis offers a protective element, and still acts as a healing medicine even when smoked.
Hopefully, in the next few years we’ll see more states legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, and it will be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Political dinosaurs such as Chris Christie will no longer be able to threaten states that have legalized cannabis, our prisons won’t be so overcrowded with nonviolent drug offenders, and we’ll have an entire new industry to help revitalize our struggling economy.