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.