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Editorial: Keep this gateway closed

Marijuana is often defined as a “gateway drug” due to the belief that using it often opens the door to more dangerous drugs.

It’s a persistent myth, though scientific study of the theory has not proven it to be true. Here’s what the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences said a number of years ago: “In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a ‘gateway’ drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, ‘gateway’ to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

But there’s an aspect of the marijuana story here in Massachusetts that involves a real gateway. Just a little over a year after voters approved the creation of dispensaries and a prescription system for medical marijuana, some are working hard to make the drug not just available for medical uses but to legalize its use by adults in the state, much like tobacco or alcohol.

The pro-marijuana activists group called Bay State Repeal announced last week their drive for Massachusetts to have the “simplest and least restrictive plan for marijuana law reform focused on preventing non-medical distribution to children.”

Before creating a proposal addressing the legalization question for the 2016 Massachusetts ballot, Bay State Repeal wants to get nonbinding referendum questions on the 2014 ballot as a means of seeing what Massachusetts voters are likely to support when it comes to legalizing pot.

Of course, none of this would have any possibility of passing without the steps taken to soften public opinion when it comes to marijuana, including legalizing medical marijuana here.

The thinking here is the gateway is open ... but we think this push could create a backlash that could backfire.

The state is barely coming to grips with the regulation of medical marijuana and the creation of dispensaries. Citizens and state government haven’t seen what is going to happen — positive or negative — when it comes to medical marijuana.

Will Massachusetts, for example, be able to avoid the pitfalls of what has happened in California ... where getting a medical marijuana card is practically as easy as getting a bus ticket? We would want to think that regulators will make sure there are stringent penalties for those doctors who choose to freely write such prescriptions.

This is just one area of concern, however, that the state will need to navigate carefully as medical marijuana becomes a reality here.

We don’t think Massachusetts should be in a hurry to take any steps toward legalizing it for “recreational” use.

No matter how the timing fits for proponents of legalization or further decriminalization, Massachusetts would be better served by not rushing toward THIS gateway.

Over the last 100 years, there have been numerous major government and private commissions around the world that have studied the drug laws and made recommendations for changes. They all reached remarkably similar conclusions, no matter who did them, or when, or where, or why. They all agreed that the marijuana laws were based on ignorance and nonsense and do more harm than good. They all said that the current approach is fundamentally wrong and should be changed immediately. You don't have to take my word for this. Google "Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy" and read all of them yourself. This isn't hard. If we can make workable rules for alcohol and tobacco, which kill 500,000 people per year, then those same rules should work for the much smaller problem of marijuana.

This is backwards. Public opinion is already way ahead of the law, there is no "softening" necessary. Decriminalization and medical marijuana both passed with strong majorities. And Massachusetts does have a much tougher Medical marijuana laws than California, as we will see as it plays out in the next year. Nationally, we will see the impact of Colorado and Washington, and voters will have plenty of time to judge legalization there before a binding ballot initiative is likely in 2016. Once again, the public will see that the sky doesn't fall, and marijuana prohibition is a strange accident of history. The time has come to end it. As Northampton Attorney Richard Evans says: "The idea of a dispensary in their community is offensive to people who have been listening to the government propaganda for 50 years." http://www.mymassachusettsdefenselawyer.com/marijuana-laws-expert-predicts-more-legalization-feds-out-of-marijuana-by-2017/

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