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Studies on drug use show that almost every single person, 99% of all illicit drug users have tried marijuana before they did any other drugs. This insubstantial fact is used by reefer madness folks across the globe to bolster their claims that "marijuana is a gateway drug."

But when one looks past the surface of this claim, it becomes downright silly. It just so happens that 99% of these so-called illicit drug users could have also tried coffee, soft drinks, candy, or milk before moving on to harsher substances.

As the Washington Post reports,

New research out this month in the Journal of School Health could shed some light on this question. A team of researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Florida examined data from from 2,800 U.S. 12th graders interviewed for the Monitoring the Future study, an annual federal survey of teen drug use. They wanted to establish which substances teens typically used first.

They give away their findings in the title of their paper: "Prioritizing Alcohol Prevention: Establishing Alcohol as the Gateway Drug and Linking Age of First Drink With Illicit Drug Use." They found that "the vast majority of respondents reported using alcohol prior to either tobacco or marijuana initiation."

Not only that, but of those three main substances -- alcohol, tobacco and marijuana -- kids were the least likely to start using pot before the others.

wa post gateway

According to the study, "Alcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use."

The entire notion of "gateway" becomes largely irrelevant when viewed in this manner. Of course, since alcohol consumption is most prevalent, it is the clear choice. However, more important than what the kids are using is when they are using.

According to the researchers, "Overall, early onset substance initiation, whether that is alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, exerts a powerful influence over future health risk behaviors."

However, the good news is that in spite of the drug of choice for teens being alcohol, a study published last month shows that drug use across all 12th-grade students has declined.

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In each of the grades, the researchers noted declining usage rates for cigarettes, alcohol, prescription opioid pain relievers, synthetic marijuana and heroin (which hit a record low at 0.3% for 8th graders and 0.5% for 10th and 12th graders.) “These two findings were very surprising,” says Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (the group that funded the research).

Experts were worried that since prescription opioids and heroin use have gotten more popular nationally, they might see the same trends in teens. But this does not exist.

So does this study mean that the entire country should freak out, ban alcohol and declare "booze madness" to stop its early childhood use? Of course not.

Only through a lesser ignorance about drug use will teens choose to abstain. As the war on drugs has proven, making substances illegal only increases their toxicity, increases crime, drives up overdoses, grows the police state, and turns addicts into criminals.

During alcohol prohibition, in fact, researchers found that outlawing alcohol only served to temporarily decrease its consumption. Within a few years, alcohol use was back to normal, only this time, its sale was in the government-created black market which sent crime skyrocketing. It's no coincidence that the largest year on record for police being killed in the line of duty coincides with the beginning of prohibition.

In the year 1930, at the peak of prohibition, 300 police officers were killed, and innumerable poor people slaughtered as the state cracked down on drinkers.

Somehow, politicians and police alike continue to hypocritically fight the war on drugs while alcohol remains completely legal. But with force and the threat of violence being the sole impetus behind the state's existence, it's nearly impossible for them to seek a peaceful way of reducing drug use. Couple the ability to make laws, with the ability to generate revenue, and this force becomes blinded by its own greed.

As the Post's Christopher Ingraham writes,

In the past, Christie has argued that legalizing marijuana would lead to more teen drug use, and that taxes generated from marijuana sales amounted to "blood money."

"I'm not going to put the lives of children and citizens at risk to put a little more money into the state coffers, at least not on my watch," he said in March.

But if taxes on marijuana amount to "blood money," Christie so far has had no qualms with accepting taxes on the sales of alcohol. In 2013, he signed a bill expanding the state's production of hard liquor. The bill allows distillers to produce 640 gallons of hard spirits per year, provided they pay a $938 licensing fee.

To the government, the stroke of a pen can make a once immoral practice, like locking someone in a cage for a plant, a moral duty of the state. It's time we start exposing this fraud.