Teens in the first two states to end pot prohibition do not appear any more likely to fall into harder substances, according to a new study, rebuking legalization opponents who have long contended that marijuana is a gateway drug.
The research, published in the March issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, examined data on “adolescents” (ages 12-17), “early emerging adults” (18-20), and “late emerging adults” (21-24) living in Colorado and Washington, where voters in 2012 passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults.
“A public health concern stemming from recreational marijuana legalization (RML) is the idea that marijuana may act as a ‘gateway’ drug among youth and young adults, where growing marijuana use will lead to increasing substance use disorder (SUD) for ‘harder’ illicit drugs,” the authors of the study wrote. “This study investigates whether SUD treatment admissions for cocaine, opioids, and methamphetamines increased following RML enactment in Colorado and Washington for adolescents and emerging adults.”
The researchers concluded that recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington “was not associated with an increase in adolescent or emerging adult SUD treatment admissions for opioids, cocaine, or methamphetamines” compared with rates of such substance use in other states where marijuana