U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has busted one of the oldest stigmas supporting cannabis prohibition.
For decades, politicians and anti-drug groups have warned Americans that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that will lead them to abuse harder substances like heroin. Recent proponents of the "gateway drug" theory include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who vowed to reinvigorate the War on Drugs during the 2016 primaries.
"As president I would enforce the federal drug laws in states that currently allow people to sell marijuana legally," Governor Christie said last February. "I will crack down and not permit it. I have been clear that I do not support the legalization of marijuana and consider it a gateway drug."
But Obama's attorney general disagrees. Lynch recently visited a Kentucky high school to discuss America's opioid epidemic with teens. She told the crowd that the medicine drawer at home leads to opioid addiction more so than marijuana or the black market for drugs.
"In so many cases, it isn't trafficking rings that introduce a person to opioids. It's the household medicine cabinet. That's the source," Lynch warned.
“When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually...are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin.”
Of course, some addicts began experimenting with drugs by dabbling with cannabis. But Lynch suggests the relationship between marijuana use and opioid addiction is a matter of coincidence rather than cause and effect.
“It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids – it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway.”
But the attorney general wasn't trying to suggest that cannabis was safe for young people. Lynch dissuaded her underage audience from trying marijuana by stressing the potential harm that cannabis poses to the brain and lungs.
Banner image: Brooklyn, NY - January 04, 2015: Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch attends ceremony at Aievoli Funeral Home for the funeral of slain New York City Police Officer Wenjian Liu (lev radin / Shutterstock.com)