One of the most common arguments against legalization and regulation of marijuana is to label it a gateway drug. This assertion implies that everyone who has ever smoked marijuana has gone on to bigger and better drugs, and that legalization would lead to the complete downfall of society as we know it with drug addicts taking over. This has always seemed like an extremely weak argument; a grasping at straws kind of thinking.
It would be just as easy to lay blame at the feet of alcohol. It is, after all, the most prevalent legal, non-prescription drug in the United States, one that can be purchased in supermarkets, drug stores, and liquor stores. But it has been proven that prohibition does not work, a fact we should keep in mind when talking about marijuana.
By keeping marijuana illegal we force those who choose to smoke to “go underground” for their purchase. They may have to make their purchase from unsavory characters dealing a variety of illegal intoxicants and, doing as any good merchant will do, offering them to all their clients. These gate-keeping dealers are happy when anyone steps it up a notch to one of the addicting, expensive drugs. As business people they want to ensure repeat business so they work hard to push people through the gate. If we would legalize and regulate marijuana, as we have alcohol, and only prosecute those who abuse and smoke it irresponsibly, as we do those who drink alcohol, the gate would slam shut.
After visiting Amsterdam, where the biggest crime is bicycle theft, and seeing briefcase-carrying, suited professionals stopping by their local coffeeshop to buy a small amount of marijuana for an evening wind-down, this viewpoint was confirmed. There marijuana is decriminalized, stringently regulated, and taxed to provide Holland with hefty tax revenues. The population of the country is hard working and industrious, not a drug crazed bunch of potheads looking for a stronger drug. In Holland you buy marijuana from a legitimate merchant in a safe environment where the only other intoxicant offered is caffeine. There is no gate.
So, at first glance calling marijuana “the gateway drug” might seem reasonable, especially since the government has kept it in the same classification as horribly addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin while steadfastly ignoring any benefit it has. But it seems more reasonable to claim that those who will abuse alcohol or marijuana or choose to use stronger drugs will do so, no matter what the law says or which drug they started with. History proves this to be the case. The idea of there being a gateway drug is a trite concept perpetuated by those who are fearful or wish to keep marijuana illegal with scare tactics.