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Argument that pot is gateway drug is rooted in ‘reefer madness’


Although Mr. Taylor’s personal story in his guest opinion “Kill proposed marijuana measures and shut gateway to drug abuse” (Arizona Capitol Times, October 27) was compelling, it is based on a persistent fabrication that has been debunked by scores of studies.

Christa Severns

Christa Severns

Even the Drug Enforcement Administration has changed its tune. In 2016 it wrote, “Overall research does not support direct causal relationship between regular marijuana use and other illicit drug use.” They added, “Although many individuals with a drug abuse disorder may have used marijuana as one of their first illicit drugs, this fact does not correctly lead to the reverse inference that most individuals who used marijuana will inherently go on to try or become regular users of other illicit drugs.”

The gateway myth is yet another reefer madness lie that prohibitionists keep telling. The truth is that the real problems associated with cannabis stem directly from the criminalization of it and not the plant itself. In fact, the harms that Mr. Taylor describes can actually be helped by legalization. Rather than making felons out of responsible adults that choose cannabis instead of alcohol, we can tax and regulate the sale of cannabis, and we can use that tax revenue to educate our youth and to provide actual help for people that suffer from opiate addictions.

Prohibitionists refuse to have a legitimate conversation about the costs and benefits of legalizing a substance far safer than alcohol. Instead, they prefer to lie and lie again.  This may help the prohibitionist agenda in the short term, but the problem is that their rhetoric isn’t true. And when we lie to our kids about marijuana it takes away our ability to have real conversations with them about the real risks of drugs and alcohol.  Personal stories can be heartwarming, but facts and straight talk are needed when shaping policy and protecting our kids.

— Christa Severns is executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association.


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.


  1. Try explaining the logic of how we treat pot versus how we treat alcohol usage or opioid usage to a young person … strike that … it should not make sense to anyone.

    We allow folks 21 and above to legally to pickle themselves in alcohol creating significant later year healthcare issues that we all subsidize. Alcohol abuse kills over 80,000 people per year!

    Get caught smoking a non-medically approved joint and potentially face a life changing interaction with our criminal justice system. Smoking dope is dumb but putting people through our judicial system and charging tax payers for the journey while permanently damaging someone’s ability to earn a living is even more dumber.

  2. Further, it was irresponsible for ACT to publish Taylor’s essay. It was lies and deception and should not have been published. Thank you for this truthful opinion.

  3. Marijuana use can cause problems. This fact is obscured in this opinion article. While I agree with most of the article: criminalization has been the major cause of drug problems, including marijuana; marijuana compares favorably with alcohol; lying to our kids interferes with constructive conversation, I have to challenge the inference that marijuana is not harmful. Problems DO stem from the plant itself. I have worked to help too many teens, whose only drug use is marijuana, to ignore the direct problems from marijuana use. Also, the fact that marijuana is preferable to alcohol has been twisted to mean that marijuana use is okay, and that is not a service to anyone.

  4. Name a single problem, Brad, that doesn’t need your further elaboration and qualifications, Brad. Oh yeah, occasional runny noses. And…?

  5. There are many suspected problems, but I’ll stick to the two that research has revealed : 1. Poor memory. We all know the jokes about temporarily losing memory while high, but research finds that permanent memory impairment comes with prolonged mj use. 2. Motivation. When measured clinically, mj users have less motivation.

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