When arguing for cannabis law reform, every activist sooner or later comes up against the Gateway Drug Theory. This states that cannabis use leads to the consumption of harder, more dangerous and addictive drugs as the drug user searches for an ever greater hit.
The more people who smoke cannabis, the more people there are who will go on to harder drugs and therefore the more damage a policy of cannabis legalisation will do. Therefore, according to this theory, cannabis must be kept illegal in order to keep people away from heroin, LSD, mushrooms, or whatever the scariest drug of the day is.
It is likely that a small minority of people do progress through the drug world in this manner. Certainly not enough for the damage caused by cannabis prohibition to be acceptable, but some.
What is seldom said is that the logic of this process can, and does, work equally as well in reverse.
To criminalise cannabis is to make something illegal that was not before, and this means that the people subject to the enforcement of this new law are less free than they were. For both those subject to it and those imposing it, the action serves as a test. For cannabis smokers it is a test of how willing they are to submit to subjugation, and for the politicians it is a test of how tightly they can wind the screws on their subjects before resistance is made.
This is why the cannabis law reform battle is crucial for more than just cannabis users. If the politicians completely destroy the will of the people to assert their right to smoke cannabis, they will move on to the next issue. This is to say that if the people in prohibitionist countries fail to contest the cannabis issue, politicians will be invited to begin work on taking away the next freedom.
The Gateway Drug Theory logic could be the same logic as a Gateway Freedom Theory, which would state that once a freedom is taken away by the politicians, they will begin to target others in the search for greater and greater control.
So if the activist meets someone who believes in the logic of the Gateway Drug Theory, ask them if they've considered applying the same logic to a vice of theirs that the politicians might like to take away.
The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party works to defend people against this process. Whether or not an individual believes strongly in cannabis law reform, most people can see that defeat here is a defeat for all of us.