Empirical Economics

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 583–603 | Cite as

Is cannabis a gateway to hard drugs?

  • Hans Olav MelbergEmail author
  • Andrew M. Jones
  • Anne Line Bretteville-Jensen
Original Paper


The gateway hypothesis proposes that use of cannabis directly increases the risk of consuming hard drugs. We test this controversial, but influential, hypothesis on a sample of cannabis users, exploiting a unique set of drug price data. A flexible approach is developed to identify the causal gateway effect using a bivariate survival model with shared frailty estimated using a latent class approach. The model suggests two distinct groups; a smaller group of “troubled youths” for whom there is a statistically significant gateway effect that more than doubles the hazard of starting to use hard drugs and a larger fraction of youths for whom previous cannabis use has less impact.


Gateway hypothesis Illicit drugs Duration analysis Latent class models 

JEL Classification

I12 I18 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Olav Melberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew M. Jones
    • 2
  • Anne Line Bretteville-Jensen
    • 3
  1. 1.Health Economics Research Programme at the University of Oslo (HERO/HELED)OsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Economics and Related StudiesUniversity of York and Health Economics Bergen (HEB)YorkUK
  3. 3.Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS) and Health Economics Bergen (HEB)OsloNorway

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