So-called gateway drugs are those believed to be drugs for beginners, or drugs that young people use which lead them to harder drugs later. The rationale for many marijuana laws has long been that marijuana is a gateway drug so that even if marijuana use is not a problem in itself, it is the beginning point for greater problems in the future. Other substances seen as having the potential to be gateway drugs include tobacco and alcohol. Some commentators argue that one or more of these substances serve a gateway function and that those who smoke, drink, or use marijuana are at risk for the use of harder drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or crack. Others point out that any relationship is tenuous and that those trying to prove a relationship are misusing statistics to show a cause-and-effect relationship where there is none. At most, they say, users of any drug or stimulant may have a psychological predilection so that the cause is in their psychology and character and not in the fact of the use of marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco.
Many studies of the subject simply assume that marijuana is a gateway drug and analyze the issue accordingly. A recent study reported by Jenkins stated, for instance,
The three variables which best predicted selfreported drug use at grade 10 were (1) number of friends using gateway drugs, (2) selfreported average grade, and (3) involvement in enjoyable extracurricular activities. The stepwise entry of the latter two variables accounted for a statistically significant increase in, explaining an additional 5 percent of the variance in selfreported gateway drug use beyond the 41 percent explained by number of drugusing friends (Jenkins 297).
This analysis suggests, however, that it is less the influence of the gateway drug than of the friends using that drug as to whether the individual uses either the gateway drug or any harder drug.
Marijuana has been identified by many authorities as t...