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Marijuana is often referred to as the "gateway drug," indicating that use of marijuana can easily lead to exploration of and even addiction to more potent and even more dangerous substances. For that reason, it is not surprising that according to the 2005 report by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health , 97.5 million Americans (12 and older) used the substance at least once. It is important here to acknowledge the term "at least;" this only means one use per lifetime at a minimum.
In terms of prevalence of use of marijuana relative to those who were incarcerated in state and federal prisons between 1997 and 2004, the numbers are stark. Seventy-seven percent of state prisoners reported some use of marijuana prior to incarceration, as did 71.2 % of federal prisoners. These high percentages support the studies that show marijuana as a drug that leads to use of other substances. It should also be considered when reviewing these statistics that more people may be likely to report marijuana use, as it is more "acceptable" than use of drugs like heroine and/or cocaine.