Marijuana has long been called a gateway drug, but is it possible that the drug could help save people from the growing opioid epidemic? (Photo: iStock)

Is marijuana a gateway drug to the harder stuff, like opioids? Or is it, in fact, a safe high that actually discourages folks from seeker bigger drug kicks?

A new poll cited by The Hill suggests the latter. The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted by YouGov and found that, while only a slight majority of Americans support total pot legalization, less than a third believe marijuana users are at risk for graduating to the harder stuff.

This taking of the temperature of the masses on the gateway topic could be important to developing strategies to address the opioid epidemic. According to the survey, the idea of pot as gateway drug was rejected across the board. 

Only two slices of the demographic pie even got close to a 50 percent “agree” vote on the gateway matter: Republicans at 43 percent, and folks older than 65 at 49 percent.

But virtually every other group considered the gateway argument a nonstarter. Consider the percentages that agreed it was a gateway drug:

  • All in survey: 31 percent.

  • Male: 31  percent.

  • Female: 31 percent.

  • Under 30: 19  percent.

  • 30-44: 28 percent.

  • 45-64: 27 percent.

  • White: 32 percent.

  • Black: 35 percent.

  • Hispanic: 26 percent.

  • Democrats: 26 percent.

  • Indies: 27 percent.

  • Rich folks: 17 percent.

  • Low-income folks: 33 percent.

  • Midwesterners: 38 percent.

  • Northeasterners: 26 percent.

  • Westerners: 25 percent.

  • Southerners: 33 percent.

Now, there were a lot of folks who weren’t sure how they felt about it; that number, across the board, was around 17 percent. Still, the numbers showed a clear rejection of the Nixon-era argument that pot smokers were just a joint away from the needle and the damage done.

Further supporting this viewpoint was the strong agreement — 65 percent of all respondents — who said the government’s efforts to stop marijuana use were a waste of money. Another strong majority felt the feds should not attempt to enforce anti-pot measures in states that have legalized marijuana. 

And, it turns out, about one in every two Americans has tried marijuana at least once. The highest percentage for any demographic group is 58 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 who said they’d “happened to try marijuana.”