Barney Frank on the Gateway

I miss having Frank in Congress. Nice to see he’s still involved… Barney Frank: The myth of marijuana as a gateway drug

To the dismay of the marijuana prohibitionists, the results of these steps toward legalization have been benign. In those jurisdictions where marijuana has been legalized in general, as it was in Washington and Colorado, or made available for very broadly interpreted medical purposes, or treated more as a minor offense than a crime, there have been no outbreaks of marijuana-induced violence – no significant increase in people getting into accidents while puffing, and no apparent upswing in cocaine and heroin use brought about by people entering through the marijuana gate.

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29 Responses to Barney Frank on the Gateway

  1. NorCalNative says:

    Excellent article by former congress critter Frank.

    I was one of those kids who got the wrong message from government about cannabis and made the decision to go onto trying other substances.

    I don’t regret my decision, but the fact is, being lied to at the start of my drug “career” had a very big part in my future desire to experiment.

    • Freeman says:

      Yup! Same here.

      It was a Sugar Creek Gang book (anyone else remember those?) with an anti-marijuana message which my parents gave me that got me curious and interested in weed in the first place. Then I started noticing all the hippies on the TV news protesting the Vietnam war at a time when I was quickly approaching drafting age, and their message resonated with my fears of being conscripted into a fight I had zero understanding of — I knew the U.S. hadn’t been attacked, and I also knew of a couple of older guys from our church who were sent and didn’t make it back.

      When I finally tried it and discovered it was nothing like how it was being described (none of us guys started growing boobs and it certainly wasn’t making us impotent — or even temporarily insane and out of control of our faculties), I started getting curious about all the other taboo stuff available in the same underground culture that were being described with the same sort of propaganda messages. It was at about that time that I read 1984 and learned how propaganda works. It wasn’t until I discovered the cocaine rush that left you craving more 15 minutes later that I realized some of the warnings had merit.

      It’s ironic, isn’t it, how paranoid parents and media so worried about “the messages we’re sending to our youth” end up sending the message that this stuff is so exciting and makes you feel so good that we have to lie to make it sound incredibly horrible to scare you away from it because you won’t be able to resist any more once you’ve tried it. It reminded me of the saying “how will you keep the kids on the farm once they’ve seen the big city”. Well, I was bored with the “farm” wanted to see the “big city”.

      So, in true “show-me state” fashion, I learned the truth through experience. I played around with cocaine and crystal (’twas pharmaceutical meth back in the day, not the home-made crap on the streets today) for a year or two and had a ten-year love affair with hallucinogenics. I ended up leaving that other stuff behind, but I stayed with the weed because, rather than ruining my life, I feel that it has enhanced it. It helps me relax, enhances the pleasures of food, music and sex, and boosts my creativity.

      Many of my friends who quit all illegal drugs for their careers ended up booze-hounds and their health started falling apart in their forties. MJ helped me moderate my drinking and avoid that. It also helped immensely in quitting tobacco — I just bought a big bag of weed and every time I had a craving for a cigarette I rolled a joint instead. A couple of weeks of that and I was over cigarettes and went back to the more affordable mj consumption patterns I had before quitting cigs. So for me, marijuana wasn’t a gateway to consuming “harder” drugs — propaganda was that gateway. Instead, mj was a gateway to quitting or moderating harsher drugs.

  2. Jean Valjean says:

    “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.”
    Without doubt, the true gateway has always been prohibition. For the last 80 years, in most locations, the only people you could buy cannabis from were the same people who sell heroin, crack and meth etc. One of the reasons Uruguay’s president Mujica sited for legalization was ending the state enforced connection between drug users of any kind and the criminal underworld. Speculation is already mounting that Mujica is deserving of a Nobel Peace prize for moving the end of the drug war closer.

  3. claygooding says:

    I was already smoking weed when the proverbial shit hit the fan and Nixon started up the propaganda machine,,it was so exactly opposite of what the science and researchers of the day reported it that newspaper editors would refuse to print opposing views every time a new government report of more dangers from marijuana and other drugs hit the tabloids,,,as if answering the damaging propaganda would even be understood 2 weeks later when it finally hits the paper.
    My anger was that I knew they were lying the first time I heard it,,the frustration was not being able to prove it was lies except one or two people at a time. Light a joint and discuss the weather.
    It worked.

  4. Mike Parent says:

    The Gateway theory was made up to justify keeping marijuana taboo. It was a contrived lie, conceived by Prohibitionists. Here’s the Science that says it’s not a gateway substance; Marijuana is NOT a Gateway Drug. Here’s a 12 Yr Univ Study that says so;.
    Media overview;

    • Tony Aroma says:

      The LaGuardia Report was the first to debunk the gateway theory way back in 1941 (also the first to actually assess it objectively). It’s been consistently debunked ever since. This so-called “theory” has only ever existed in the minds of prohibitionists.

  5. Duncan20903 says:


    I often mention to the foaming at the mouth crowd that lying to youth about cannabis isn’t a good idea because it takes about 5 minutes inside our world to realize that they are lying. Subsequently it’s totally predictable that the malleable minds of youth will jump to the conclusion that they’re being lied to about the rest of the names on the naughty lists. While I can’t definitively state that I never would have tried cocaine (you never saw that girl nekkid!) but the fact that I had been lied to about cannabis and LSD was most certainly front and center in that thought process.

    • allan says:

      I’ll ditto that (the statement, the substance and the sentiment)…

      and I MAY have seen that girl nekkid!

      And bless Rob Ford and the conservative idjit representative from FL for proving a point about coke and booze. When you snort cocaine you can drink a lot. Take a line and have a beer/shot. And after that beer/shot you realize another line would go just right. After that line you realize another beer/shot would go great. After that beer/shot you realize another line would be great… etc etc etc.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        I’ve got to admit that you might have, her naughty parts certainly weren’t available only to an exclusive list of members. Heck, not even limited to members only, she went both ways. I’ll bet you can imagine how cocaine directly off the boat and a bi-sexual girlfriend might lead to less than optimal results subsequent to a period of highly enjoyable hedonistic excess. Heck, I think that I’m lucky to be alive. So does anyone else who knows the details of that misadventure. Back in the 1980s it was considered a fact that AIDS was exclusive to gay men.

        I’ve heard that coke and booze combined create a separate and distinctive high. I never did try that myself but that’s because I’m one of those people that just can’t stop drinking after I started. Cocaine was much the same but there were no blackouts or simultaneous projectile diarrhea/vomiting. But it is the totality of my experience with booze and cocaine which causes me to use the phrase “the fiction of merrywanna addiction” and believe it true. IMO an integral part of addiction is the lack of any enjoyment, a strong desire to quit using the substance of addiction and the seeming inability to put the shit aside. That does describe my last year and a half before I managed to kick the cocaine to the curb almost 25 years ago. It does NOT describe my relationship with cannabis.

        Like I said in the comments column under Congressman Frank’s opinion piece, I believe that it’s a mistake to say that drinking alcohol is a “gateway” to using cocaine. Equalize the legal status and you’ll find that people who like that combination would be equally likely to go find a bottle of booze after using some cocaine. Those people want the two combined, not one or the other. To date no one has shaken my belief that the “gateway” “theory” is a laughable absurdity regardless of which substance is cast as the villain but I might have given some credence to the drinking alcohol leading to cocaine had I not known so darn many people who liked the combination. It’s called cocaethylene and has a unique chemical structure.

        Hey, those rat bastards deleted my post under the Barney Frank opinion piece.

        • allan says:

          yeah… my binge only lasted a few months, got away cheap, only lost a grand or so.

          My adventure involved suppliers who would steal a plane, fly to Mexico, fly back, land on a remote road, unload and leave the plane. Probably many a shocked farmer early in the morn, finding an airplane parked in the middle of their rural road.

          Oh! Nice place for an appropriate bit o’ music:

        • Freeman says:

          Hey, those rat bastards deleted my post under the Barney Frank opinion piece.

          Heh, looks like they’re students of the Keith Humphreys school of free exchange of thought — just nuke the ones that challenge your position and you can’t come up with a good response to.

        • Duncan20903 says:

          Freeman, I don’t know, it might have been because I called prohibitionists E.D. Yachts in that post and one of the realized that it was an insult.

        • B. Snow says:

          Yah, got me there – I was SURE that was gonna be a link To Eric Clapton:

          *Bur-ner-nernah-nerm-nom, Bur-ner-nara-hum…*
          “If you wanna hang out…”

          I never much cared for it, a little bit in a joint, or a little ‘cigarette-bump’ (if that) was all I was ever interested in – after the 1st 30 mins that the first time… It was never the same (I still remember that night too!)
          And I sure as heck didn’t spend any significant amount of money on it, (maybe $10 or 20 tops if someone else was short) And, that was the reason REALLY I didn’t like it – the whole “smores” thing. If it weren’t for a girl I might have never spent a penny on it.

          Eventually there were only 2 people I’d even hang around with if they were doing that – I was content to tend to the bong, while they’d go back to the bathroom every so often.

          Not a gateway for me, an introduction to other drugs MAYBE, But only because *sometimes* they were sold by same folks. Or the ‘bud guy’ would be hanging out with the ‘powder guy’ or ‘vice-versa’ = pun absolutely intended!

  6. Duncan20903 says:


    I’m always shocked when lawmakers do the right thing. So I’m sitting here stunned after learning that the Connecticut Legislature has re-scheduled cannabis from schedule I to schedule II and actually recognizing the medicinal utility of cannabis. So I wanted to offer them a tip of the pin.
    Pharmacists Assess Risks and Benefits of Medical Marijuana

    P.S. For those not aware each State and the District of Columbia has adopted the Uniform Controlled Substances Act at the State level and maintains it’s own 5 naughty lists. The categories and criteria are identical to the Feds but each State can and does classify substances differently. E.g. in Oregon psuedoephedrine (Sudafed®) is in Schedule III and requires a prescription and methamphetamine (Desoxyn®) is in Schedule I and not available by prescription. But States are only able to regulate substances more strictly than the Feds. Oregon has also placed cannabis in schedule II but that doesn’t mean that it’s available by prescription. I actually think that this is how the otherwise inexplicable inclusion of PCP in Federal schedule II persists. It doesn’t matter because all of the States have moved it to schedule I making the controversy moot. Please keep in mind that conclusion is educated speculation as I haven’t checked all of the States’ naughty lists for their scheduling of PCP but it just doesn’t make any sense that it’s still in Federal schedule II otherwise. If there are any substances that deserve to be in schedule I then there’s no doubt in my mind that’s where PCP belongs. While I think that the naughty lists for bad substances is arguably an incomplete piece of stupidity if they’re going to enforce certain rules then they should at least follow their own rules. (PCP was never approved for use in human medicine. The naughty lists do include substances used only on animals by veterinarians, e.g. PCP)

  7. Daniel Williams says:

    Those among us advocating drug legalization back in the early 70s were derided as “the lunatic fringe.” It is a sad but delicious irony that the prohibitionists are now considered the lunatics.

    • allan says:


      and tasty indeed.

      Even as late arrivals on the DPR scene in the early 00s, LEAP’s opeds and LTEs often took some work and many phone calls getting newspaper editors to consider publication. “LEAP who? what? legalization of drugs?” *click*

      Again, persistence pays off.

    • kaptinemo says:

      “The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.” – Mark Twain

      I guess that makes us the radicals…

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Projection is an almost universal character trait among prohibitionist cohort. Couple that with their almost universal character trait of malignant narcissism and I’ve just described people who should have absolutely no influence in the formation of public policy.

  8. War Vet says:

    I thought swing-sets, merry-go-rounds, tire swings, rolling down a hill and spinning around really fast were the real gateway drugs. Adults drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco in front of the kids could be the gateway to using those substances. I drank my first beer with my uncle from Pakistan. I’m baffled as to why the Feds never banned adults as a way of keeping the kids drug and alcohol free.

    • War Vet says:

      John Coltrane and Miles Davis makes me want to smoke weed and Garth Brooks and Allan Jackson make me want to drink -so why not ban music as well under the old logic of the gateway theory?

      • allan says:

        I found my first smoke-mates in Thailand by wandering around the hooch area. I heard Pink Floyd and went and knocked on the door.

        Friends are the gateway. Enemies too, parents, neighbors, strangers, circumstance… life is a gateway and if you don’t open a gate or two or twenty you’re gonna miss some good shit. To my financial sorrow I’ve always chosen a new adventure over stability. Even my kids were/are an adventure!

        • War Vet says:

          Thailand ay . . . I bet you’ve got some good pictures, stories and souvenirs. Adventure brings wisdom. You should write about your journeys. I haven’t been on here for a while because I’ve been working on my story . . . someone’s got to tell the people how the War on Drugs created massive amounts of finances for terrorism (granted that’s merely a part of the background and not the theme).

  9. DdC says:

    It is not possible to Gateway from Cannabis to what hadn’t been invented. All those poor schmucks smoking pot looking for something to gateway too and had to wait 2000 years. Prohibition is the only Gateway lumping everything into one basket.

    Scythians High Plains Drifters
    The Scythians were a barbaric group of pre-Common Era nomadic tribes who are a fascinating example of an ancient cannabis using group. The Scythians played a very important part in the Ancient World from the seventh to first century BC.

    Heroin (diacetylmorphine or morphine diacetate (INN)), also known as diamorphine (BAN), and colloquially as H, smack, horse, brown, black, tar, and other names, is an opioid analgesic synthesized by C.R. Alder Wright in 1874 by adding two acetyl groups to the molecule morphine, found in the opium poppy. It is the 3,6-diacetyl ester of morphine. Heroin itself is an active drug, but it is also converted into morphine in the body.

    Cocaine was first isolated (extracted from coca leaves) in 1859 by German chemist Albert Niemann. It was not until the 1880s that it started to be popularized in the medical community.

  10. Fallibilist says:

    I miss the Barney Frank-Ron Paul dynamic duo. If ever there was a one-two punch against the war on weed, it was these two.

    I really think their ideological span knocked the prohibitionists on their collective asses. ’bout time, too.

  11. Servetus says:

    The latest research from RAND says marijuana consumption in Washington State is twice as high as previously estimated. Fancy that. Surreptitious activities, in the reality-sphere, bite like a wolf. This means more tax money for Washington.

    Prof. Kleiman’s numbers are already obsolete in less time than you can blink. RAND appears serious about studying and reporting on the whole legalization phenomenon; a good omen.

    • strayan says:

      Kilmer, Caulkins and Kleiman are all buddies Servetus. Caulkins is on the board of Drug Free America too.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Who the heck didn’t know that Prof Kleiman’s field of expertise is SWAG statistics? Except for the so called authorities in the State of Washington of course.

      You know, with Bernie Madoff exposed, convicted and incarcerated Prof. Kleiman just might be the most accomplished confidence artist in the United States. I do mean that in the nicest way possible.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        BTW, since when do we believe that RAND could accurately estimate the number of butt cheeks of the average human being, much less the actual market for cannabis?

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