December 15, 2013

Barney Frank: The myth of marijuana as a gateway drug

(Continued from page 1)

There is an issue to which marijuana can be analogized: same-sex marriage. In both cases, prohibition embodies the objection that some people have to other people engaging in activity of which they personally disapprove.

Rather than admit that what they are seeking to do is to regulate the individual behavior of their fellow citizens, even when it has no impact on them, the antis in both cases have claimed that terrible social consequences will result from letting people enjoy their freedom. And in both cases the results have been entirely contrary to those predictions.

The final prohibition argument, of course, is that we must prevent adults from smoking marijuana because we do not want children to do it. That of course is also an argument for total prohibition of alcohol; for a much more rigid censorship of sexually oriented books and movies; and for banning a wide variety of other activity, which in a civilized society we allow people to do when they reach a certain age.

In closing, in the spirit of fairness, I want to make one concession to those who would link marijuana to harder drugs. There is a connection between marijuana on the one hand and cocaine, heroin and substances like PCP on the other: the law.

By treating all of these substances as illegal, we create a linkage that does not otherwise exist. The only example we have of a step-by-step progression for marijuana into more serious drug use is the one that we have created on our statue books.

Barney Frank is a retired congressman and the author of landmark legislation. He divides his time between Maine and Massachusetts.

Twitter: @BarneyFrank

— Special to the Telegram


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