Corbett says marijuana ‘most addictive gateway drug,’ despite evidence otherwise
In a recent interview with the Tribune Democrat, Gov. Tom Corbett called marijuana the “most addictive gateway drug that there is,” putting to rest any question as to whether Pennsylvania could have legal pot during his tenure in Harrisburg.
“People don’t stop at marijuana then, because then they go to the next level,” he added to the Johnstown, PA-based newspaper.
Our friends at Keystone Politics brought the governor’s most recent statement to our attention, and make note that Corbett was speaking about Johnstown crime when legal weed was brought up. The writer noted this is a recurring theme for Corbett.
“Johnstown’s rash of burglaries, assaults, and murders are all because of the pot smokers,” sarcastically writes Jake Sternberger. “What’s really troubling is that Governor Corbett seems to have adopted a policy paradigm along the lines of ‘when something is going wrong, blame drugs.’”
And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening. Despite progress on the medical marijuana front in numerous states in recent years, and recreational marijuana getting the OK in both Colorado and Washington State, Corbett remains strident in his position that pot leads to vices other than an afternoon of Tastykakes and episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
One candidate looking to take over for Gov. Corbett in 2015 is John Hanger, the former secretary for the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency. He has a plan to completely legalize marijuana—medicinally and recreationally—by 2017, if elected.
“The governor is clinging to a set of laws that are cruel and barbaric to sick people and sick children and are destructive to tens of thousands of people across Pennsylvania,” Hanger tells PW, “so I’m not surprised. He’s just wrong when he describes marijuana as addictive, and he’s just wrong when he implies that ruining people’s lives for possessing a joint is a smart way to deal with marijuana.”
Hanger notes he’s in favor of drug treatment, but says current marijuana laws are “destructive.”
The candidate recently participated at a Smokedown Prohibition rally at Independence Mall, in which local and statewide activists spoke about the issue from several fronts, including criminal justice and medicinal uses for the plant before lighting up in an act of civil disobedience. The candidate maintains he has never smoked weed in his life.
One person who’s been on the front lines of the war against marijuana prohibition is Vanessa Maria, a local marijuana activist who’s helped put together those Smokedown Prohibition events.
“It’s nothing new that we’ve heard from Governor Corbett,” she says. “It’s the same old. It’s a very Republican way of thinking about marijuana, that it’s a gateway drug. Of course, the governor ignores science when making statements like that. If you read studies on the issues, there’s no evidence to find causation.”
Indeed. According to a 1999 study by Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, it was found that the gateway drug theory is largely a misconception. Drug users who move onto more illicit drugs may have used marijuana first, but there’s no evidence to say marijuana caused the use of hard drugs in the first place.
“In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a “gateway” drug,” the authors note. “But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, “gateway” to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
Marie, who favors legalization, notes the illegality of marijuana may have more to do with users moving onto harder drugs than marijuana use itself.
“If you’re going to purchase marijuana illegally, you’re going to a drug dealer that has other things,” she notes. “Whereas, if you are in a state like California, in Colorado or Washington and you go to a safe place, you’re limited to a product that comes from cannabis.”
Government studies have shown that an estimated 1 million Pennsylvanians smoke marijuana. There were 6,414 marijuana-related arrests in Philadelphia in 2012 and more than 20,000 throughout the state. (“Statements don’t offend me,” adds Marie. “Policies do.”)
It’s for this reason, and others, Hanger notes the governor is out of touch with his state’s residents. He is currently the only mainstream candidate running for governor who has explicitly noted he would legalize marijuana throughout the state.
“Tom Corbett, he’s so out of touch with Pennsylvania,” Hanger adds. “The new Pennsylvania that’s trying to be born. Pennsylvania needs a new birth of freedom [and] it’s going to take me beating Tom Corbett—not just anybody beating Tom Corbett—I’m the candidate to make sure that Tom Corbett’s vision of Pennsylvania is put in the dust bin.”
Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso