Progress: U.S. Attorney General Admits Pot is NOT a Gateway Drug

marijuana and Loretta Lynch

A rather shocking thing occurred this week when U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted that marijuana is not a gateway drug. Think about that for a moment: The nation’s top law enforcement official has dismissed the notion that people who use cannabis will inevitably go on to become hardcore drug addicts. [1]


On September 21, Lynch appeared at a town hall meeting in Richmond, Kentucky, as part of what President Obama has dubbed National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. The attorney general was in town to discuss the hazards of opioid abuse with a group of teens.

In her opening remarks, Lynch pointed the finger at prescription drugs as the catalyst behind the heroin epidemic sweeping through Kentucky.

Lynch said:

“When you look at someone that, for example, has a heroin problem, it very often started with a prescription drug problem. Something totally legal. Something in every medicine cabinet. Something you can have prescribed to you in good faith by a doctor.”

The discussion turned to marijuana when a Madison Central High School student asked Lynch whether she thought the recreational use of marijuana among high school kids would lead to opioid abuse.

Lynch admitted that marijuana is not a gateway drug, but still framed cannabis as a potentially harmful substance. She replied:

“When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually, as we have mentioned, are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin. It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids.” [2]

She went on:

“It’s not as though we are seeing that marijuana is a specific gateway.”

That’s a huge switch from what Lynch said in January 2015, during her confirmation hearing, when she adamantly opposed legalizing marijuana at the federal level. She said at the time:

“I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support legalization, nor would it be the position if I were confirmed as attorney general.”

Lynch’s softened stance on marijuana lines up with studies showing that not only is marijuana not a gateway drug, it may actually reduce opioid use. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a 25% drop in opioid-related deaths in states where marijuana is legal.

The most recent Monitoring the Future study revealed that marijuana use on college campuses is up, but other drug use is down.


[1] Merry Jane

[2] SFGate