04.27.2016
culture

Weed Is the Good Kind of Gateway Drug

It's all about what lies on the other side of the gate.

Much buzz and mumble about weed as a "gateway drug" is passing around Internet circles this week. 

This clashing of opinions is nothing new, but at this point the debate is like splitting hairs. It’s all relative. The divides break down along anecdotal experience and misguided governance, with a entire schism coming from propaganda misinforming public opinion. 

But once and forever, conclusively, is cannabis a gateway drug, after all

Yes. Absolutely. But not all gateways are portals to bad things. 

Historically, the gateway drug has been saddled with a less-than-savory reputation, depending on the presumed evil that naysayers perceive lurking on the other side of that gate. If we acknowledge any and all possible negative consequences of hopping the THC-infused fence; we should also look at the pros, the positive marijuana outcomes. 

Some people think of weed less as a “gateway drug” and more like a medical treatment with room for exploration and further understanding.

Like many other prohibition-inspired drug-modifiers, it’s all about branding: Once you call weed cannabis, it becomes a wellness product; raw plant matter that can be processed into different commodities containing a variety of medical benefits. If you call it a "gateway drug," law enforcement feels empowered to arrest anyone in possession of the perilous herb, especially if that person is young and black and wearing a hoodie.

Image via dj_spazzz/VSCO

Fear of pot as a portal to despair traditionally revolves around a worst-case scenario involving inexperienced, exploratory youths trying weed a few times and descending into prostitution and hypodermic needle use. (And probably also a lot of Taco Bell.) 

"Not everyone who consumes cannabis is a drug addict. Not all addicts are criminals."

In this day and age, less-sensationalized  data is availableAccording to 2014 research from Johns Hopkins University, “In states where it is legal to use medical marijuana to manage chronic pain and other conditions, the annual number of deaths from prescription drug overdose is 25 percent lower than in states where medical marijuana remains illegal.” 

Sure, other precipitating factors are probably in play in such states, Mercury has a tendency to slip into retrogradeBut simple “If, Then” logic indicates that medical marijuana may actually serve as a gateway away from harmful drugs, such as opiates and painkillers. 

Tracy Ryan, CEO and consultant for CannaKids, a California cooperative that specializes in the creation of lab-tested, extracted cannabis oils, has achieved near celebrity status within the weed world for her impact on the health and wellness side of the industry. 

Tracy Ryan and her daughter, Sophie.

Ryan says, “The birth of CannaKids was inspired by my own daughter Sophie Ryan. Sophie was diagnosed at 8 1/2 months old with an extremely rare brain tumor called an Optic Pathway Glioma. After using cannabis oil in combination with her chemo protocol, Sophie’s tumor shrunk by over 90 percent!”

Sophie Ryan's introduction to cannabis can be seen as a “gateway” of sorts, to life beyond age nine months.

Jose Martinez, a U.S. military veteran who lost three limbs in Afghanistan, says, “Before I found cannabis, I wanted to die from the moment I woke up in the morning. I was taking so many pills, I didn’t care if I even left the house. Half the time, I didn’t even get out of bed.”

Martinez is part of Weed for Warriors, an advocacy group promoting cannabis in treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. He delivered the above quote standing close to the Santa Monica Pier on a warm and sunny Saturday, at a celebratory event. Sounds like, for Martinez, weed served as a gateway back to a normal life after service.

On the social side of things, if the legal-cannabis industry is indeed becoming a model of inclusion and a progressive business climate where women have equal executive footing as men; is weed not then also a gateway to a gender-equitable future of prosperity for men and women of all races and backgrounds? The emerging new world of “woman weed bosses” and “Mary Janes” has no room for weed's old-school chutes-and-ladders stigmatization. 

Not everyone who consumes cannabis is a drug addict. Not all addicts are criminals. If large-scale, sweeping stereotypes of similar scope were applied to any other demographic of people, it would be considered flat-out intolerance. 

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