Kim Virginia

Is the Gateway Real?

Marijuana is not a gateway drug.

Dear Next President,

Marijuana has been the center of attention through discussion over legalization of the drug and observing the effects on people, giving it consideration to be a gateway drug. The gateway effect is a theory that explains the sequence of drug use starting with alcohol and tobacco products, leading to the use of marijuana and opening a great possibility of using harder drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or LSD (“On the Road to Drug Abuse”). However, the use of marijuana, itself, is not the only thing to observe when determining its effects on human choices and actions. Many studies have been done through the Drug Policy Research Center, West Virginia University, and Texas Tech University who observed marijuana users and determined factors such as the user’s neighborhood location, economic status, and personal relationships become important aspects of how marijuana is used and if it leads to the use of other illicit drugs which should be payed attention to when the issue of legalization arises.

Research found that those who grow up in neighborhoods or locations where drinking and smoking is common, there is an increased amount of drug use, but only a small amount of users are actual examples of the gateway effect. According to research, “75% of inner-city heavy drug users began using cocaine before using marijuana” (“Predictors of Marijuana Use”). The use of different levels of drugs relates to the location and wealth of the users. Someone who has more money and lives in a more centralized location is more likely to come in contact with harder drugs including cocaine which is sold for $100/per gram on the streets. Others, who are less wealthy or do not have the access to as many drugs, are more likely to come into contact with marijuana, as it is more prevalent and less expensive, selling for $20/per gram on the streets (“Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect”). Following the research it is easy to understand why people believe the gateway effect to be real, but in reality, there are hidden variables behind the reasoning.

Research from the National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse gathered statistical information to explain the amount of marijuana users who would initiate hard drug use. The data showed that only 1.6% of people tried hard drugs before marijuana (Andrew R Morral). As previously stated, it would be more common for people to come into contact with marijuana before other illicit drugs because of the cheaper price and prevalence. Research from Texas Tech University and West Virginia University even shows that the legalization of marijuana has a fairly negative effect on heroin use, and it is not a gateway drug to heroin either (“Is Medical Marijuana a Gateway Drug?”). Although marijuana use comes before the use of harder drugs in many situations, it simply does not meet the criteria of a gateway drug.

Overall, research shows that many drug users have done marijuana before other stronger drugs. However, it is shown that based on location and conditions in the area, one may or may not be influenced by marijuana and the use of other illicit drugs. The gateway effect is wrong, as users have the choice whether or not to continue the use of drugs and complete the sequence. Despite having smoked weed, one is able to avoid heroin, LSD, and cocaine use. Marijuana is not the reason behind or the gateway to use harder drugs, so it is safe to say that it would be okay to legalize marijuana.



November 2, 2016


DeAngelo, Gregory, and Audrey Redford. Is Medical Marijuana a Gateway Drug?: The Effect of

Medical Marijuana Legalization on Heroin Use Rates. Oct. 2015. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.

Morral, Andrew R., Daniel F. McCaffery, and Susan M. Paddock. "Reassessing the Marijuana

Gateway Effect." Drug Policy Research Center, 4 June 2002. Web. Oct.-Nov. 2016.

Morral, Andrew R., Daniel F. McCaffery, and Susan M. Paddock. "Using Marijuana May Not

Raise the Risk of Using Harder Drugs." RAND Corporation, 2004. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.

"On the Road to Drug Abuse." The Truth About Marijuana. Foundation for a Drug-Free World,

2016. Web. Oct.-Nov. 2016.

Tarter, Ralph E., Michael Vanyukov, Levent Kirisci, Maureen Reynolds, and Duncan B. Clark.

"Predictors of Marijuana Use in Adolescents Before and After Licit Drug Use: Examination of the Gateway Hypothesis." Am J Psychiatry, 2006. Web. Oct.-Nov. 2016.

Eastern View High School

AP Language & Composition

AP Language & Composition students (11th grade) from Eastern View High School in Culpeper, VA are tasked with researching platforms, crafting political cartoons or pieces of satire, and writing letters and op-eds

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