Joe Biden’s bold experiment in trying to win the Democratic presidential nomination without a single vote from a young person continued Saturday, when the 76-year-old frontrunner told a crowd in Las Vegas that he doesn’t want to legalize weed because he’s worried that it might lead to harder drugs. Here’s what the former vice president said, according to Business Insider:
“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Biden said. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
If you heard something just now, that was the sound of thousands of cannabis experts sighing all at once. The “gateway drug” debate never seems to die, even though there is ample evidence that smoking weed does not lead users down a pathway to heroin or meth addiction. Writer and harm-reduction expert Maia Szalavitz did a thorough dismantling of the gateway myth for VICE in 2015. Though it is true that people addicted to these more harmful drugs often start out with weed, it’s not the that cannabis somehow activates a tendency toward addiction inside these people. As Szalavitz lays out, addiction is a complex phenomenon that can be triggered by some combination of genetic predisposition, mental illness, childhood trauma, and other factors. People who seek out drugs as a way to self-medicate may start out with weed, but that does not mean that most, or even many, people who smoke pot are going to try other drugs, much less become addicted to them.
“If marijuana were causing other drug use, most users should progress to more dangerous substances,” Szalavitz wrote. “But they don’t. By the numbers, marijuana use seems more like a filter that keeps most people out than a gateway that lets the majority pass through.”
Opponents of legalization like Biden may point to a recent study showing that as more states that have legalized cannabis, the U.S. has seen an uptick in people with cannabis use disorder, which went from 0.9 to 1.23 percent from 2008 to 2016. But the author of that study doesn’t see those results as being an argument against legalization. Even if the government has to contend with some negative public health effects as a result