How Cannabis Became the Gateway Drug…For Psychedelic Drug Normalization

What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
-  The Grateful Dead, 1970

The Grateful Dead were one of the 1960s rock ‘n roll bands most strongly associated with psychedelic drugs.

At around the same time that the they wrote the iconic lyric above (in the song Truckin), Western governments were in the process of heavily criminalizing all psychedelic drugs.

What has followed is a half-century of horribly misguided drug Prohibition. Outside of a handful of smaller jurisdictions, it was not until 2020 that drug normalization pressures have resulted in the first serious moves toward the decriminalization and (eventual) legalization of psychedelic drugs.

What a long, strange trip it’s been!

It’s now being called the Psychedelics Revolution. But to understand it, you first have to learn about the Cannabis Revolution.

The Cannabis Revolution

Cannabis wasn’t heavily criminalized until after psychedelics Prohibition was well under way. This was part of the (now infamous) U.S.-driven “War on Drugs”.

Along with the criminalization of cannabis came an intense anti-cannabis propaganda campaign. It was initiated by government and mindlessly parroted by the mainstream media.

A long list of supposed “dangers” were associated with cannabis use. All of which have now been debunked by real science.

In fact, via the approximate 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, cannabis is (by far) the most benign of all recreational drugs.

It is non-toxic. It is not physically addictive. It has much milder psychoactive properties than other criminalized recreational drugs. Cannabis is successfully used medicinally to treat hundreds of different medical conditions.

The endocannabinoid system of the human body is essential for maintaining and regulating our health. The cannabinoids in cannabis (along with its terpenes and flavonoids) support this essential system.

For this reason, cannabis also has numerous health-and-wellness benefits.

None of the “dangers” associated with cannabis use have been able to withstand serious scientific scrutiny. But governments (and the media) didn’t only demonize cannabis based upon mythological dangers during the War on Drugs.

Cannabis was also labeled “a Gateway Drug”. It’s usage supposedly “caused” people to turn to other stronger and more dangerous drugs.

Out of all the government’s anti-cannabis propaganda, this (ironically) had an element of truth to it.

People would try cannabis. They would quickly discover that the supposed dangers associated with its use were nonsense.

They would then assume (quite reasonably) that if everything they had been told about cannabis was a lie, then the dangers associated with hard drugs were also lies. And based upon the lies they had been fed about cannabis, people experimented with harder drugs. A Gateway Drug.

Flash forward to the Cannabis Revolution.

Starting in the U.S. in the 1990s (and around 2000 in Canada), the war to end cannabis Prohibition has raged.

Via ballot referendums in the U.S. and court challenges in Canada, people won the right to access to the health and medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.

For Canadians at the national level and for about one-third of the U.S. population, the recreational use of cannabis is now also legal. A small number of dinosaur states in the U.S. continue to prohibit even medicinal use of cannabis.

It has not been an easy war. The Corporate Media has largely continued its anti-cannabis propaganda campaign, undeterred by small details like truth and science.

While the media (and many government officials) continue to fabricate “cannabis health risks”, they have added a new branch of propaganda. We have now been told that cannabis legalization presents all sorts of “dangers” to society.

More crime. Lower property values. Increased teenage drug use. These are among the supposed “dangers” associated with cannabis legalization.

As jurisdictions have legalized cannabis for recreational use, we have seen the opposite: less crime and lower rates of teenage drug use. And because most Americans consider cannabis legalization to be an “amenity”, if anything cannabis legalization tends to promote higher property values.

The People have seen how all the dangers they were warned about concerning cannabis use have proven to be fiction. The People have seen how all the dangers they were warned about concerning cannabis legalization are also fiction.

Enter psychedelic drugs.

The Psychedelics Revolution

Roughly a quarter-century after the beginning of the Cannabis Revolution came the Psychedelics Revolution.

Where the Cannabis Revolution has been a war, the Psychedelics Revolution has been more like a 60s love-in. While cannabis science still has to compete with cannabis pseudo-science, scientific research on psychedelics is unopposed by such disinformation.

The same multinational media corporations that continue to unapologetically spew anti-cannabis nonsense can’t find enough nice things to say about psychedelic drugs – and their medicinal potential.
Obviously, there is substance to all of this positive coverage: the growing body of clinical research.

A Mental Health Crisis rages around us, greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1 billion people around the world are afflicted with stress-related disorders like depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD.

Clinical research is consistently showing that psychedelic drugs can not merely improve the standard of care for these conditions – they can revolutionize these treatment markets.
Where conventional medicine struggles to even adequately treat the symptoms of these conditions, psychedelics-assisted therapy is producing cures.

Positive media coverage. Exciting scientific research. And none of it obscured by anti-drug propaganda.

Supported by exciting science and a friendly media, this fledgling industry has been increasingly successful in raising the large sums of capital necessary to drive formal pharmaceutical research.

In just over 6 months, the industry has raised over US$700 million via public placements and private financing rounds. Not bad for an emerging industry where the public companies are barely a year old.

Cannabis: the Gateway Drug to psychedelic drug normalization

Cannabis legalization advocates and legal cannabis companies have fought a war to get cannabis legalized and normalized across North America.

They have the scars to prove it. And that war is not over.

In contrast, the road to the normalization of psychedelic drugs is proceeding more like a coronation. The outcome (legalization for medicinal use) seems almost preordained. A California state bill to legalize possession of several psychedelic drugs was just approved by a Senate committee.

Part of this can be explained as the legal cannabis industry having already fought the battles for the emerging psychedelic drug industry.

After already being educated on medicinal cannabis, the medical community is even more receptive to psychedelics-based medicine. The media is providing friendly, fact-based reporting. The People seem even more receptive to psychedelics.

We’ve all seen the Cannabis Revolution. We’ve seen the positive benefits that have flowed from it.

As a result, the psychedelic drug industry is facing far less resistance. But is there more to it?

Psychedelic drugs are much more amenable to a drug patent system than cannabis. Multinational drug companies will have the potential to generate far more profits from psychedelics than cannabis.

Then we have the U.S. military. The Department of Defense is dealing with an even worse Mental Health Crisis. Along with depression, anxiety and addiction (and suicide), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is at epidemic levels among military personnel.

Coupled with this, a recent article bluntly stated that 70% of Young Americans are “too fat or dumb” to qualify for military service.

The DoD can’t afford a high attrition rate among those who do qualify for service due to mental health disorders. Yet the DoD currently has an abysmal track record in providing PTSD treatment (two-thirds of veterans obtain no benefit from their treatment).

The Department of Defense is also now one of the most enthusiastic backers of psychedelic medicine, having contributed $10s of millions for research.

It certainly helps to “have friends in high places”.

Cannabis is a Gateway Drug. The Cannabis Revolution has done much of the heavy-lifting in terms of public opinion and reducing the taboos in the corporate world toward these previously demonized psychedelic drugs.

This has paved the way for the Psychedelic Drug Revolution that is now unfolding.

Would the psychedelic drug industry have been able to get off the ground without the prior Cannabis Revolution? Possibly. The acute need for psychedelics-based therapies may have tipped the scales.

What is clear is that cannabis is (once again) a Gateway Drug. But this time, it is a “gateway” to psychedelic drug legalization.
Gateway Dru (cover) by Psychedelic Stock Watch is licensed under N/A


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