Countdown

The Elko Daily Free Press is counting down the days until marijuana is legal in Nevada by answering questions concerning the law.

Q: Is marijuana a gateway drug?

Though opinions on the drug’s effects vary, there is no definitive proof marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to the user seeking harder drugs, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

It has been the concern of organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse that marijuana can lead a user to want more illicit drugs as they seek a more powerful high.

PACE Coalition director Laura Oslund said she does not consider the drug a gateway drug but pointed out that addicts of harder drugs have to start somewhere.

“Does marijuana actually cause people to go on to harder drugs? No. Do people who use marijuana quite often go on to harder drugs? Yes,” she said. “Instead of calling it gateway drugs, you may want to think of it as a starting drug.”

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has a similar viewpoint.

“In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a ‘gateway’ drug,” the report said. “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.”

Even though she does not consider marijuana to have a direct impact on someone’s likelihood of using harder drugs, Oslund is deeply concerned that another intoxicant has been legalized.

“I’m appalled,” she said. “I think it is one of the worst decisions that have been made in a very long time.”

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Recreational marijuana will only be sold to customers 21 or older but Oslund explained she was concerned about the possibility of the drug being more available to children. She was also worried that legalized marijuana could attract people to Nevada who have no intention of being productive members of society.

In addition to the social costs of legalizing the drug, Oslund thinks treating the marijuana users will hurt the state’s ability to put the tax revenue towards schools and other infrastructural improvements.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any of the tax benefit,” she said. “It’s going to go into regulation and treatment and other social services.”

Anyone with questions about marijuana becoming legal should email news@elkodaily.com.

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