How America Lost the War on Drugs

>> Monday, January 21, 2008

Rolling Stone published what must be the most extensive magazine article I've ever read on the "War on Drugs." It took me several nights to finish reading it amongst reading many other articles online. I had a couple of favorite points while reading the article. Unfortunately, I finished reading it a few nights ago and can't remember what those points were! One of the problems caused by having too much to read!

Except for this one. I remember this one because I've heard my mom talk about marijuana as a "gateway drug."

For the first time ever, McCaffrey had the drug czar's office develop a strategy for an endgame to the drug war, a plan for finishing the whole thing. The federal government needed to reduce the amount of money it was spending on law enforcement and interdiction. But McCaffrey believed this was only possible once it could guarantee that drug use would continue to decline. "The data suggested very strongly that those who never tried any drugs before they were eighteen were very likely to remain abstinent for their whole lives, but that those who even smoked marijuana when they were teenagers had much worse outcomes," says McCaffrey's deputy Don Vereen. So the General decided to focus the government's attention on keeping kids from trying pot.

The "gateway theory," as it became known, had a natural appeal. Because most people who used hard drugs had also smoked marijuana, and because kids often tried marijuana several years before they started trying harder drugs, it seemed that keeping them off pot might prevent them from ever getting to cocaine and heroin. The only trouble is, the theory is wrong. When McCaffrey's office commissioned the Institute of Medicine to study the idea, researchers concluded that marijuana "does not appear to be a gateway drug." RAND, after examining a decade of data, also found that the gateway theory is "not the best explanation" of the link between marijuana use and hard drugs. But McCaffrey continued to devote more and more of the government's resources to going after kids. "We have already clearly committed ourselves," he declared, "to a number-one focus on youth."

That's right. The "gateway theory" is bullshit. Just what I thought when I heard my mom mention it. It just doesn't hold up to personal experience. One puff does NOT equal lifetime drug user or addict.


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