Do a quick internet search of the phrase, ‘debunking the gateway drug theory’, and you’ll quickly see how many stories are churned out on this subject each year by reputable news sources and various associations.
While many attempt to dispel the myth that consuming cannabis leads to hard drug use, politicians like British Prime Minister Theresa May continue to thwart their efforts by glomming onto the refuted idea, which was introduced to the vocabulary of Republicans and anti-drug activists in the late ’70s, before it became accepted by many as fact.
(In actuality, the term ‘gateway drug’ was coined by researcher Denise Kandel over 40 years ago in a paper that discussed the dangers of nicotene, not marijuana. It’s thought that former White House drug czar Robert DuPont was reponsible for hijacking the term.)
May was featured on ITV News on Monday (May 15), where host Robert Peston conducted a Facebook Live interview with the leader.
‘Emma wants to know why you can’t support cannabis legalization,’ Peston says as angry emojis fly across the live video.
‘She says it’s the only thing that helps her debilitating anxiety, but she has to be a criminal to get the only thing that helps her.’
A stone-faced, stumbling May acknowledges that there has been research into the drug’s medical applications, but that admission is quickly erased by a bias-revealing personal anecdote:
“There have obviously been some studies into the use of cannabis or derivatives for medical use.
‘The reason I don’t believe in making cannabis use legal is because of the impact I see it having on too many people in terms of the drug use. What we’ve seen is stronger forms now being used—I think it can have a real impact on people in terms of their mental health.
‘But it can also of course lead to people going on to harder drugs. There’s a wonderful woman in my constituency, Elizabeth Burton Phillips who runs something called DrugFAM, which supports families.
‘One of her twin sons—they both started on cannabis when they were at school and went on to heroin and one of her twin sons committed suicide. This has a huge impact on families.’
What May fails to mention in her reasoning is something even Burton Phillips acknowledges in her bio on DrugFAM’s website: before her sons used heroin, they also used cigarettes and other recreational drugs.
What’s more, May ignores the fact that opinion polls have revealed that the majoirty of Britons support the idea of legalization.
She also fails to consider the fact that, without any legal options for patients like Emma to use cannabis medicinally, Britain’s black market industry remains mired in gang activity and has been linked by police to modern slavery.
She seems to echo ideas that are expressed frequently by the British media about the dangers of ‘skunk‘, but with the toughest cannabis laws in any English-speaking country, it’s no wonder the plant is often viewed in such a negative light.
Currently, anyone found possessing cannabis in the U.K. could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Even as Canada and many American states take steps towards legislation, it’s highly unlikely May’s Conservative party will change it’s collective mind about cannabis legalization ahead of the next U.K. general election on June 8.
But with the low-flying Liberal Democrats recently announcing their support for legalization, one wonders how far off regulated ‘skunk’ might be.
We’re sure of one thing: Theresa May’s claims are baseless and tone-deaf. This makes her the Straight’s next Roach of the Week.