Legislative Actions

Marijuana: Still a Gateway Drug

NM Families need to brace for rise in addiction

Three years before succumbing to a heroin overdose, Devin Glenn faced battery on a household member charges.

Amid all the celebration of how much money the state government pocketed selling drugs to the masses, it’s worth remembering the dangerous consequences of New Mexico’s new recreational marijuana laws.

The pro-pot crowd has written tirelessly debunking the “gateway drug myth,” claiming as its counter-point to actual data that “the vast majority of marijuana users don’t go on to use harder drugs.”

You don’t have to be high to make this argument — correlation doesn’t equal causation — but the science isn’t on the stoner’s side.

A Metaphor, An Anecdote, and The Data

It’s true that smoking marijuana doesn’t guarantee that you will elevate to harder narcotics, just as the majority of people who drink alcohol won’t become drunk drivers. But it’s also true that as the number of first-time alcohol consumers increases, so does the rate of alcohol-related crimes. This is a simple metaphor.

Here is an anecdote. 

Devin Glenn’s mother took an “educational” approach to parenting about drug use, telling him, “Experiment with other things, but not heroin.”

He drank excessively before age 21—to the point that he was lectured by his doctor about having a fatty liver, “a precursor to things like sciroccos,” his mom recalled. 

According to his brother, who found Devin dead in 2017 of a heroin overdose at age 23, the road that led to his tragic end began where most drug use starts.

First it was pot, smoked a lot of pot. Then he started drinking, he drank a lot. I’ve smoked crack with Devin. I’ve smoked heroin with Devin. I’ve smoked DMT with Devin. We experimented with things. For a while he…wasn’t addicted to meth, but he was definitely using meth a lot.”

The data shows that Devin had a textbook “gateway” experience.

“Some research suggests that marijuana use is likely to precede use of other licit and illicit substances and the development of addiction to other substances,” according to the National Institutes of Health

Marijuana creates an “increased vulnerability” to addiction in part because of THC’s effect of “priming” the brain “for enhanced responses to other drugs.”

Most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ drugs. People who use marijuana and do go on to use other drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) may have a higher risk of dependence or addiction to those drugs, especially if they started using marijuana at an early age and use it frequently” (emphasis added).

–CDC, Risk of Using Other Drugs

A Mild Defense

There is a fair defense of marijuana use. It is, by almost every measure, better than its pharmaceutical alternatives. For people who use prescription medications — not to get high but to relieve pain — marijuana is a lesser evil.

But the defense ends there. Medical marijuana has been available for years. And you don’t have to get high–and increase the chance of addiction–in order to benefit from its effects.

Self-Own

The myth-debunking crowd admits out loud, as news columnist Phil Gianficaro did in September 2020, that “Some people are more willing to try drugs than others, and people who are willing to try drugs are more likely to have used multiple drugs in their lifetime than people who don’t use drugs at all.

“Because marijuana is the most widely available and most widely used illicit substance in the world, someone who has used less available and less popular drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.) in their lifetime is more likely to have also used marijuana than someone who has not used any of these substances.”

While these arguments are made in defense of legalization, they carry a clear warning. If, as the science says, marijuana creates a “priming” effect on those who are to already vulnerable to addiction, then raising the legal curtain will undoubtably boost the availability and popularity of marijuana, which, for certain individuals, like Devin Glenn, prove deadly. 

Our Take

A core tenet of Conservatism is personal freedom—the exercise of God-given liberties against government intrusion, to include the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” of free speech and religion, and of self defense. The anti-drug stance taken by many in the Republican Party has been rightly criticized as hypocritical and in stark contrast to its alleged belief in individual liberty. But that is true only as a matter of policy, not of personal opinion.

At The Conservative New Mexican, we believe in freedom at all costs, so long as it does not harm or infringe on the rights of others. While we generally oppose government involvement in free-market commerce, the personal use of marijuana does itself not meet the threshold of infringing on other people’s rights, which is why we support the legalization of marijuana, and, on principle, even the legalization of all drugs.

But drug use nonetheless does come at a cost, and that cost extends beyond the dangers posed to the individual. The community at large is affected by drug policy, and New Mexico officials acknowledge the looming dangers of marijuana legalization.

Albuquerque saw its first burglary of a marijuana dispensary on March 31, 2022. On April 4 in Algodones, 14 elementary school students were hospitalized after eating THC-laced candy. Law enforcement officers are also warning of the secondary effects of legalizing marijuana.

“Looking at the other states and looking at the studies that are out there, it’s reasonable for us to conclude that we’re going to see an increase in DWIs and an increase of crashes,” Albuquerque Police Department officer and drug recognition expert Charles Files told local news agencies. 

“Cannabis can impair your coordination, perception, judgment, and reaction times. When people think about drug impairment, their minds probably go right to the illicit stuff. Impairment is impairment regardless of what substance it comes from.”

APD Officer Charles Files

While Progressives are reliable advocates of government intervention to protect the masses from themselves (see taxes on cigarettes, the lottery, and soda as obvious examples), it is not a position based on the principles of freedom. Which is why we support the decriminalization of drugs and the continued prosecution of actual crimes, like burglary.

The point is to understand the risk that comes with drug use, both as an individual and a parent. Decriminalization has the effect of desensitizing society to the risks of marijuana. The state government’s celebration of its recreational marijuana bill is not an outright endorsement of drug use, but legalization sends a clear signal to the masses. What is legal is not necessarily moral, nor safe, but the fact that it is no longer il-legal is likely to increase personal use. 

So be safe. Talk to your kids (at an appropriate age). And be vigilant on the road.

2 replies »

  1. Quite agree that drugs and the prohibition of them creates social problems. But we shall now reap the harm of glorifying their legalization. We very well know of drug use is hazardous and can lead to many social harms. How we transition into education and wise use now is paramount. It certainly doesn’t help that Pad Davis’ The Paper lauds the glorious achievement of progressive NM. And the Daily Lobo does so as well. We shall regret that lack of education going forward.

    I can imagine better ways to manage sale and distribution but the public has elected a nominal retail path sans pre-education.

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