Conservatives Claim The Gateway Effect Is A Legitimate Concern

Conservatives believe the legalization of medical marijuana is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. They claim that the money saved by legalizing medical marijuana comes at too high a price. Conservatives also claim that prison overcrowding will not be solved by legalizing medical marijuana and suggest alternative solutions. Finally, Conservatives claim there is not enough research to justify the legalization of medical marijuana.

Conservatives claim that legalizing medical marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana. For example, California legalized medical marijuana and then legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Conservatives are afraid that this pattern will spread across the United States. Legalizing medical and recreational use of marijuana will lead to an increase in drug use due to the gateway effect. According to Dr. Robert L. DuPont, President of the Institute for Behavior and Health, “Marijuana use is positively correlated with alcohol use and cigarette use, as well as illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.” DuPont claims that, “…more people who use marijuana consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do people who do not use marijuana.” 3* Conservatives believe the gateway effect is a valid argument against legalizing medical marijuana.

Conservatives claim that societal costs overcome any money made by taxing legalized medical marijuana. In his Huffington Post article entitled, Legalizing Marijuana: The Real Costs, Deni Carise compares legalized marijuana to the legalization of alcohol and tobacco. While these substances are heavily taxed, this revenue fails to compensate for the real costs to society from these products. Carise gives several examples of alcohol’s damaging effects including, “…increased traffic accidents, ER visits, domestic violence and lost work productivity…costly medical problems, and even death.” 1* In 2009, there were 10,839 traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. This statistic only represents the costs to society caused by fatalities: one can only imagine the societal costs caused by, “…those ‘lucky’ enough to just be injured in accidents…” Also, marijuana is “…the second most prevalent drug (after alcohol) implicated in automobile accidents.” 1* Conservatives claim the price of legalizing medical marijuana is simply too high.

Conservatives argue that any relief to the criminal justice system would be minimal and suggest there are better ways to solve prison overcrowding. Charles Lane claims in his Washington Post article that, “ending the war on drugs would not end mass incarceration”. Lane argues that the Liberals’ statistics concerning drug offenders are exaggerated and that, “Drug offenders account for only 19.5% of the total state-federal prison population, most of whom, especially in the federal system, were convicted of dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin and meth, not ‘smoking marijuana’.” 2* Lane also claims that while, “…the population of state prisons (which house the vast majority of offenders) grew from 294,000 in 1980 to 1,362,000 in 2009… only 21% of that growth was due to the imprisonment of drug offenders, most of which occurred between 1980 and 1989….” Pfaff also claimed that, “More than half of the overall increase [of drug offenders] was due to punishment of violent offenses, not drugs.” 2* Conservatives argue that legalizing marijuana to achieve criminal justice relief is not wise, and claim other solutions such as shorter sentences for drug offenders and giving judges more discretion in sentencing would be more effective. 3*

Finally, Conservatives state that there simply is not enough evidence to justify the legalization of medical marijuana. According to Dr. Stuart Gitlow, former president of the ASAM Board of Directors, “There really is no such thing as medical marijuana…The dangers and risks of marijuana use are well-known by the scientific community, even if they are down played by corporate interests wishing to get rich off of legalization. Apathy, lost productivity, addictive disease, deterioration in intellectual function, motor vehicle accidents, and psychosis are all among the negative outcomes. All from a product that has no demonstrated benefit. For nearly all conditions for which marijuana has purported benefits, we already have existing medications—safe medications—demonstrated to have value.” 4*   For example, the American Academy of Neurology does not advocate the legalization of medical marijuana to treat neurologic conditions because of the lack of evidence. They recommend further research to address concerns such as marijuana’s interactions with current prescriptions. 5* Perhaps some Conservatives would be more willing to consider legalizing medical marijuana once more research has proved its effectiveness over existing medications.

In conclusion, while Liberals claim legalizing medical marijuana will lead to economic and public health benefits, Conservatives disagree. Conservatives argue that legalizing marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana. They claim any benefits of legalizing medical marijuana are outweighed by the negative societal costs, such as the loss of life. Finally, they claim that more research is needed to support the Liberals’ claim that the medical benefits of marijuana justify its legalization.









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