Cannabis is a Gateway Drug

Editor’s Note:

“Cannabis is a Gateway Drug” is a guest post on by James W. Jesso. James is one of the articulate and passionate younger spokespeople working to help with the urgently needed consciousness transformation on our beleaguered planet through the wise use of entheogens/pychedelics. James does very interesting interviews with leading figures in this work on his ATTMind podcast. You can also help James create more content like this essay via his Patreon page.

Note: The feature image of the couple opening a gateway for the young ones was created by Jonathan Thompson.

A Sudden Realization

When someone first smokes cannabis, and the conditions are right, something remarkable and concerning happens… The user is suddenly thrust upon a world of wonder, relaxation, humor, passion, creativity, and perhaps even gnosis. The cannabis trance dissolves the invisible bars of a psychic prison held together by an ignorant and incorrect drug education program and rhetoric. It opens a gateway to seeing how demented, contorted, and flat out wrong much of what they have been told about the world truly is.

Next thing you know, that same kid who was smoking marijuana starts reading about philosophy and history and questioning authority. Maybe they will even go so far as to eat LSD or magic mushrooms and reconnect themselves with an inner spiritual authority that can completely dismantle the socially conditioned obedience, stupidity, and mediocrity that it has taken generations to establish!

Reefer Madness

Ok, maybe I went too far in my parody there, but in all seriousness, that paragraph above isn’t too far from the mentality of the early years of cannabis prohibition and was a major contributor to the US President Nixon’s launching of the War On Drugs in 1971. The deviant behavior of young people in the early era of cannabis prohibition was a strong factor that led to its criminalization. During Nixon’s era, the spread of cannabis use, as well as LSD (an extension of Beat culture, which was an extension of early Jazz culture), was rampant among anti-war and civil rights activists, which was a threat to the established power that needed to be squashed.

Going back even further, in the 20s and 30s, cannabis was seen as a social danger jeopardizing racial segregation, its use was associated with young white people fraternizing with people of color, enjoying their music and attending their events, which was very concerning to the white elitist ideals of the United States government. The first US drug Czar, Harry J. Anslinger, who is responsible for the very first legislation banning cannabis use in the Untied States, is also responsible for the films like Reefer Madness, the perception of drug addiction as a criminal matter rather than a health concern, and quotes such as “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind” and “reefer makes darkies think they are as good as white men”. 

reefer madness, anslinger, pot prohibition, free the weed

Cannabis—the safest, easiest to access, and most widely known drug to the counter culture in those times (and even still)—was indeed a truly dangerous ‘gateway’ drug.

The foundations of modern day prohibition come from a history of lies, racism, unjust laws, and political rhetoric. Despite cannabis’ impending pseudo-clemency, these ever-present origins continue to echo through institutional drug education and into the minds of young people. The manner in which we educate our youth on cannabis usage remains driven by fallacious drug prohibition rhetoric.


pot prohibition, legalizing cannabis


Despite its incredibly long history of use alongside the human species, the establishment of its criminality being forged by corporate manipulation and fanatical racism, despite the reality of how reasonably mitigated and few the harms of cannabis are, it gets tossed the same category as heroin and cocaine, “illicit drugs.” This needs to change and one of the first things we need to do is to stop pretending that cannabis is a dangerous drug. It’s not.

It’s Safe

Although making responsible choices in our usage to avoid unintentional harm is important, cannabis is a very safe drug. In fact, vastly safer than most of the drugs that will be prescribed to us by our doctors throughout the course of our lives.

We cannot continue to simply blanket all “illicit drugs” as holding the same risks and dangers. A clear differentiation between the potential harms and dangers across the vast spectrum of different drugs needs to be made (this is called “harm reduction”). When we don’t do this, and cannabis gets lumped in with the rest, then not only will the potential dangers and potential benefits of cannabis get lost in the mess of falsity, politics, and propaganda that constitute the majority of our society’s paradigm around “drugs;” but the disillusionment of youth educated into a broken drug paradigm that denigrates cannabis alongside heroin will set them up for risky behavior and dangerous choices.

We are moving in the right direction when we are moving into legalization here in Canada (although the government still has ample opportunity to make a dysfunctional mess of it all). But along with our progression into legal access for responsible adults, we as adults need to progress into educating our children how to be responsible. That starts with learning the facts (and releasing the rhetoric and lies) and speaking honestly with our youth.

In the same way that we shouldn’t teach our children Santa Clause is real knowing full well we are lying for what we pretend is their benefit but is only in favor of our own self-interest, we shouldn’t teach children cannabis is a dangerous drug like heroin and meth, knowing full well that isn’t true either.

We should educated ourselves properly so we can tell them the truth and then, in having earned their trust by way of our integrity, offer them guidance that helps them make responsible, well-informed, and mature choices.

Psychedelic Prohibition: Help End It – Mark Haden

The suggestions in this post were written and compiled by Mark Haden and offer some great ideas for how all of us engaged in any aspect of work with entheogenic substances can help end psychedelic prohibition. Oh, you thought you were at a website or Facebook group called Cannabis and Spirituality? Well, you very well may be, but it’s all connected. We’re engaged in a battle of ideas on a planet in transition and in trouble. If our better angels and best ideas don’t hold sway over these next decades, the ominous prognostications of dystopian science fiction and pessimistic climate scientists may come to look tame.

Although Mark’s piece is in references to psychedelics, or entheogens, in general, since this introduction comes from the website, I have to put in a good word for the sacred herb. Cannabis is sometimes dismissed by elements of the entheogenic community, at least in part because of its mildness (or so they think) and the rampant casual use and misuse of the holy herb. But, when engaged skillfully with intention, there is no doubt that cannabis belongs in the entheogenic club, and, as we know, much more still needs to be done to bring the plant to its rightful place as a spiritual/medicinal ally and healer.

Mark Haden (, is an influential drug policy educator, advocate, and as you’ll see here, activist. 

What YOU can do 
to help end psychedelic prohibition:

In order to end psychedelic prohibition, these things need to occur.

  • Reformers need to organize.
  • Information about the failures of prohibition of psychedelics (eg. MDMA deaths from adulterants or contaminants) and potential benefits of psychedelics needs to be shared widely
  • Research showing the benefits of psychedelics needs to be published and disseminated.
  • Discussions need to happen among family, friends, colleagues and the general public.
  • Politicians and other leaders need to be persuaded that it is in their best interest to talk about ending prohibition of psychedelics.
  • A major venue for change will be in the media. Journalists, reporters and bloggers need to be engaged in the process wherever possible.

Get organized

  • Join with others. Examples are: drug policy reform groups, psychedelic activist groups and psychedelic research groups. Meet regularly, support each other, plan and implement strategies.
  • Contribute money, resources and time to existing groups
  • Go to conferences (psychedelic, drug policy, addictions treatment, health 
care) to share ideas and meet people.
  • Organize fundraising events to support research, which is very expensive.

Share Information

  • Educate yourself. Explore the internet, read quality books, find and understand the scientific research. Discuss set, setting, and safety issues.
  • Share the best of the above with family, friends and community.
  • Learn the language of change. Learn about the use of psychedelics for the 
treatment of PTSD, end-of-life anxiety, addictions, depression, cluster headaches, spirituality, cognitive enhancement, etc. Learn about the improved mental and social health of people who use psychedelics.
  • Talk about the need to regulate and control all currently illegal drugs based on human rights and public health principles and the need to “protect our children against drug prohibition”.
  • Find good books and recommend them to your local community or university/college library.
  • Give research information on the failures of psychedelic prohibition and the potential benefits of psychedelics to university and high school students and encourage them to write papers on this topic.
  • Join email list-serves and/or follow bloggers/tweeters where you get regular information about what is happening.
  • Make distribution lists, and then tweet, facebook, email and spam others with the information.
  • Start a web site where you share information.
  • Start a student club to educate campus communities about psychedelics
  • Develop an information brochure and hand this out widely.
  • Come out of the closet and challenge the stigma– start losing the fear of 
talking about (and eventually proudly own) your personal experiences with psychedelics.

Promote Discussion

  • Hold events which support open public discussions – invite speakers to share their ideas. Invite the media to attend and participate where possible.
  • Ask health officials/managers why they are not speaking out about the need to explore the health and treatment benefits of psychedelics. Show them that the research shows benefit for circumspect psychedelic use and remind them that they say they are evidence based.
  • Be honest with your children. Teach them about both the harms and benefits from different psychoactive substances (not lumping the illegal ones together as just “drugs”), and the harms from drug prohibition.
  • Buy or make bumper stickers, T-shirts, mugs, stickers with catchy slogans and use them everywhere.
  • Stage visually dramatic events, take lots of pictures, send to the media and post on the web.
  • Call in to radio talk shows and be prepared to discuss both the research and your own positive experiences.

Influence Politicians and Leaders

  • Talk to the leaders. Find people who play a leadership role in a variety of communities (e.g. faith communities, civil rights groups, health groups, citizen action groups, parent groups, union leaders, aboriginal groups, etc) and share the research with them and ask them to help.
  • Write a letter to a politician – “yes” this makes a difference.
  • Set up a table in a public place where you have a variety of text /sentences/Q&A’s on small sheets of paper exploring a range of reasons to end psychedelic prohibition. Ask people who walk by to write a letter, either in their own words or using the supplied text supporting the cause. Keep and copy the letters and meet with politicians and the media and give them the letters. Save the copies and repeat.
  • Write letters to the media.
  • When you see an article in the news about psychedelics, PTSD, cluster 
headaches, addiction treatment, etc find the article online and contribute a thoughtful, well written response in the comments section (and include html links to sites like MAPS/MAPS Canada.) Assume politicians are reading what you say and present yourself as a concerned member of mainstream society who wants to improve health and social services.
  • Organize peaceful public demonstrations or go to existing protests. Take professional looking banners, signs to be waved, brochures and bullhorn (with new batteries). Memorize catchy chants.
  • Vote for politicians who support freedom/liberty and against politicians who promote fear of others.

Nota Bene: Be prepared to be persistent, as lots of polite repetition is required.