November 2011

Both alcohol and tobacco tend to precede cannabis use, and it is rare for those who use hard drugs to not have used alcohol and tobacco first” Golub A. Johnson, American Journal of Public Health, 2001

The main argument against the decriminalization of cannabis is that it is a gateway drug and introduces people to other, more lethal drugs, the most notably heroin and cocaine.

That argument is seriously flawed.

A recreational drug is any substance that when inserted in the body alters the mood and behavior of the user in a way he considers desirable. Thus, while cannabis is a drug, so are alcohol, tobacco and coffee.

The issue here is the way we use language in everyday life. We call alcohol, tobacco and coffee by their own name, rather than “drugs”. That doesn’t mean they are not mind altering substances. In other words – drugs.

[Before I carry on I’d like to make a distinction between alcohol and tobacco or coffee. The level of mind altering in tobacco and coffee is very mild. Alcohol on the other hand had a very significant effect, as everyone who’ve seen someone drunk, or got drunk at least once in his life, knows. Thus while for the purpose of this article I will be comparing cannabis with alcohol, this doesn’t mean the others are not drugs as well.]

Most surveys given to drug addicts in trying to identify patterns on how they started abusing drugs till they became full blown addicts were conducted in the way most surveys are – through a questionnaire.

And here is the mistake. Since in everyday language we don’t refer to alcohol as a drug, when asked “What is the first drug you ever used?” most respondents replied with “cannabis” even if, in the absolute majority of cases, drinking alcohol preceded it.

So, what makes something a gateway drug?

When people use a substance that significantly alters their mood they learn a lesson. The lesson is simply that a short cut exists to arrive to the desired state of mind, if only for a while. As an example, while working on your self esteem and assertiveness is likely to take a long time and hard work, one can temporarily overcome shyness by drinking a few units of alcohol.

Most people just stop there. Others start using alcohol in most areas in their life and in turn become alcoholics. Others will try harder drugs, many of whom end up full blown drug addicts.

So, is cannabis a gateway drug?

There is no such think that makes any particular chemical a gateway drug. The “gateway drug” is nothing more than the first mind altering substance the addict had used. It can be anything, but most of the time it’s alcohol.

The American people are angry. Their anger is directed mainly at the super rich 1% whose net worth is the equivalent of a third of the whole US. They’re asking for more affordable healthcare, housing and education. They are fed up of bearing the burnt of a recession caused by other people, while those same people are barely affected. Hence, the Occupy movement.

One of their slogans says, “Is this what democracy looks like?”

They are right. They have been fooled and betrayed. And if the betrayal had a name, it would be Barak Hussein Obama.

Before becoming President, Obama promised change. Not a superficial one, like the skin colour of the President, but change where it really matters, namely foreign policy.

The Iraqi invasion and the following occupation were based on a lie: There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and Saddam Hussein, disgusting as he was, wasn’t a threat to the US. Many acknowledge the fact that the main aim of the invasion was getting hold of Iraq’s resources, especially oil.

What many non-Americans fail to realize is that the US average Joe, who pumped billions of dollars on this senseless war through his taxes, has gained nothing. All the spoils of war went to the same elite – the CEOs, bankers and politicians who are part of the 1%, or even a portion of it.

Public sentiment towards interfering in foreign countries has changed a lot since 2003. American citizens are fed up of financing these wars and prefer that their money is spent on them, in healthcare, housing and education.

Obama promised change. As Senator he used to ask the most relevant questions about the invasion/occupation of Iraq. Questions about its expenses, the use of mercenaries and the accountability of US troops. He gave clear indications that he was less interested in overthrowing regimes hostile to the US and more concerned about the health of American citizens.

Yet, three years later, while thousands of Americans are protesting and occupying public space, they are seeing a déjà-vu. Not only didn’t the US troops get out of Iraq, but it’s very likely that Iran will be invaded. The threat this time is nuclear weapons. The public is sceptic. They have been fooled too many times. They refuse to finance another war for the benefit of the 1% and their priorities are paying their bills, continuing education and feeling safe that the state will take care of them if they get ill.

They are also angry, very angry. This is not democracy; this is a farce. They voted for a Democrat who became a Republican once he got elected. Their protests were met with police brutality with the excuse of protecting the “general public”.

The similarities between their “democracy” and a totalitarian state are increasing by the minute. And they definitely don’t want this. How can one blame them?