Despite the adoption and growing acceptance of recreational and medical-use cannabis across the globe, naysayers persist. And as you know, when you have differing opinions misinformation and misconceptions can run wild, making it hard to discern fact from fiction.
The same applies to cannabis.
Misinformation in an emerging industry like cannabis can have a detrimental impact on adoption rates and work to perpetuate negative public opinion. With cannabis consumption still heavily mired by negative stigma and legalization pushing against the boundaries of societal norms, it’s imperative to clear the air and set the record straight when it comes to the truth.
Education about cannabis usage, effects, properties, among other things, has been touted as the key to the continued success and grow of the sector. With the cannabis industry still in its early stages, it is equally important to debunking myths and misinformation that could lead to bad decisions or negative consequences for unknowing consumers.
So if you’re canna-curious, a newer consumer looking for more information, or a seasoned toker wanting answers to well known cannabis myths, we’re setting the record straight on 10 cannabis myths.
Myth Buster 1: Cannabis is a Dangerous Drug
To understand where this myth comes from, you must first understand cannabis’ origin story. The history of cannabis is a long and tumultuous. It is rife with racism, revolution, and the need for control. Uncertainty about cannabis dates to the 1910 and the days of the Mexican Revolution that bled into the US, outlandish claims that cannabis caused a bloodlust, and the ensuing Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that ultimately deemed cannabis illegal.
Even though it was widely recognized that cannabis was largely not dangerous, the promotion of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the war on drugs in the 1930s became the ultimate motivation driving the federal ban on cannabis. This of course, was aided along by rampant racism (which still plays a role in cannabis discrimination today). Until the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis was not considered a Schedule 1 substance. However, once on the list, cannabis was lumped into a category of substances that are considered to have no medical use but having a high potential for abuse.
Other drugs on the list include cocaine, heroine, ketamine, and LSD, which are comparatively a lot more dangerous than cannabis.
Verdict: Myth. Cannabis was deemed dangerous for political gains.
Myth Buster 2: Cannabis is Harmless
While we’d love to wax poetic about the safety of cannabis usage, we can’t. Because cannabis, like most things in life, moderation is key.
The saving-grace? There have never been any documented instances of cannabis-related deaths. The bad news, it’s probably not as harmless as we’d like to believe.
Cannabis is often compared to tobacco due to the primary consumption method of inhalation, cannabis has been studied to determine the impacts on respiratory health. Now, it’s a logical conclusion to make that if you’re inhaling smoke into your lungs consistently, it can’t be that good for you. However, cannabis has not been linked any health issues that are typically associated with tobacco usage, like lung cancer. And even better, smoking cannabis isn’t the only consumption method, with edibles, tinctures, capsules, and a myriad of other means of consuming cannabis available.
Another thing to consider when pondering the safety of cannabis use is your usage rate. Spending a significant portion of your time ‘high’ is probably not going to have the best long term effects. To highlight this, a study by Bentham Science Publishers, indicates that heavy use of cannabis does have an immediate impact on a person’s mood, perception, and composure, in addition to impacting one’s cognitive abilities. These effects are particularly detrimental when cannabis is consumed heavily from a young age – hence the age limit.
Despite warnings that cannabis can be harmful to your health if you’re a heavy consumer, it has also been shown to have beneficial effects for managing chronic pain and nausea among other things. So, like we said, everything in moderation.
Verdict: Truth. Cannabis, like anything else, can have harmful effects with long-term exposure.
Myth Buster 3: Cannabis is a Gateway Drug
Probably one of the more laughable misconceptions about cannabis is its status as a “gateway” drug. A gateway drug, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is a drug whose use leads to lead to the use of heavier substances like cocaine, LSD. etc.
This myth dates back to the 1970s, when Dr, Denise Kandel first coined the term in a study. However, the study’s focus was tobacco, not cannabis, as a precursor to harder drug use. Kandel identified that adolescents typically started their drug use with drugs that were already legal for adult consumption (read: cigarettes and alcohol). Cannabis use came into play later.
The term, unfortunately, has stuck around and is used widely as a means to deter consumption. And certainly, you’re likely to see people use cannabis before harder substances, there isn’t any proof to back up the claim that cannabis leads to harder drugs. Instead, accessibility and affordability are likely to be a factor in early drug use.
Verdict: Myth. Cannabis as a gateway drug is misconstrued information from the 1970s.
Myth Buster 4: Cannabis Enthusiasts are Heavy Users
What better way to spread mistruths than to make arbitrary assumptions about cannabis users and their personal consumption habits. The only purpose this myth serves is to perpetuate the “stoner” stereotype which if we’re being honest, is time to let go of.
Cannabis enthusiasts have long been referred to as “stoners”, implying that if you consume cannabis you’re automatically lazy, unmotivated, and basically spend the majority of your time in a weed-induced haze.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Certainly, there are exceptions to any rule, and some enthusiasts consume cannabis to unwind, relax, and chill – but that doesn’t mean they’re heavy users, nor does it mean their consumption habits should define them.
That said, a 2021 survey by Health Canada shows that when looking at cannabis use within a 12 month period, 53% of Canadians surveyed reported that they consumed cannabis three days or less per month whereas only 19% reported daily use. A deeper looked at how many hours respondents spent “stoned” on a typical use day (over a 30-day period) showed that 38% of consumers spending one to two hours stoned, and 33% averaging three to four hours, only 10% indicated they spent five to six hours “high”.
As far as quantity consumed on a typical day, the numbers remained the same as the previous year with flower consumers owning up to smoking approximately 1 gram in a day.
Labelling cannabis enthusiasts as “heavy users” without any indication of their reasons for use (are they medical users? Is it recreational?) is an inaccurate assessment. With cannabis being legalized across the globe, adults are feeling more comfortable with trying new products. But that doesn’t mean they’re heavy users. Recreational consumption habits vary from person to person… as it should!
Verdict: Myth. This cannabis myth isn’t even logical.
Myth Buster 5: Cannabis Use Leads to Addiction
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but this is not a myth.
Cannabis addition isn’t often discussed and doesn’t impact the majority of consumers, research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights that for about 30% of consumers some form of cannabis use disorder will manifest.
Like with other dependencies, those with cannabis disorders will follow similar patterns – withdrawals, irritability, insomnia, restlessness, physical discomfort, etc.
One key point NIDA makes is that people who consume cannabis before the age of 18 are nearly ten times more likely to develop cannabis disorders than adults.
Verdict: Truth. Studies suggest that the psychoactive properties of THC are what contribute to cannabis’ addictive properties.
Myth Buster 6: Using Cannabis Makes You a Criminal
Well… if cannabis hasn’t been legalized where you live, then technically, yes…
But if you’re fortunate enough to reside somewhere where cannabis use is legal, then you can ignore the above statement.
The idea that cannabis use will make you a criminal or delinquent dates back to the 1930s and the days of the newly minted Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Then commissioner, Henry Anslinger used fearmongering and propaganda to fuel the belief that cannabis use results in violent acts..
Still, it’s worth noting that cannabis use can cause exacerbate mental health issues, like psychosis, in some individuals. And it is these health issues that have higher risk factors for violence.
Verdict: No. Cannabis will not make you a criminal or delinquent.
Myth Buster 7: Cannabis Causes Cancer
We touched on this briefly in myth 3, where we highlighted that cannabis and tobacco are often compared. The concern of course, being that inhaling smoke into your lungs has the potential to cause lung cancer.
Tobacco, as we well know, has been linked to various types of cancer, and associated to more than 400,000 yearly deaths in the United States alone. The same cannot be said for cannabis.
What’s more interesting, an article in the Harm Reduction Journal notes that the cannabinoids in cannabis that have been showed to kill several cancer varieties (we might need to dive into this idea a little deeper!).
A recently published study from UCLA shows that smoking cannabis doesn’t hold the same risks as smoking tobacco. The study, which spanned more than four years, concluded that the findings “are consistent with those of prior studies concluding that cannabis inhalation, even long-term, is not positively associated with COPD, lung cancer, or irreversible airway damage”.
Myth Buster 8: Loads of People are in Prison for Marijuana Possession
The easy answer to this question is: yes.
But if you’re looking for an exact number, that’s a little harder to define. According to the Last Prisoner Project, a social justice group working to free the tens of thousands incarcerated for cannabis offenses, the exact number of people imprisoned for cannabis offences is an estimate at best.
In 2020, more than 300,000 Americans were arrested for cannabis related offenses, despite cannabis legalization gaining ground. While the number seems high, the number of arrests have been steadily declining over the last decade as more states legalize recreational cannabis.
Unfortunately, racism is still prevalent in the justice system, with nearly 40% of possession arrests in 2020 being Black Americans.
On a more positive note, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of American on October 6, 2022 for minor cannabis possession offences. If the state governors heed his pleas to follow suit, approximately 6500 Americans would stand to benefit from the pardon.
Verdict: Truth. Cannabis related offences, including possession has resulted in imprisonment of thousands of people.
Myth Buster 9: Cannabis is Legal in the Netherlands and Portugal
It might surprise you, given that Amsterdam is world-renowned as a cannabis destination, but cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands.
Despite the decades of tourism to Amsterdam’s Red Light District, cannabis consumption is merely tolerated and only decriminalized in the Netherlands.
Likewise, in 2001 Portugal made headlines for being the first country in the world to decriminalize cannabis. But don’t mistake the reason. Lawmakers sought to combat drug-abuse and curb drug-related crime, and took a broad stroke, decriminalizing all drugs, not just cannabis. In 2018, Portugal did legalize cannabis medicines, but that doesn’t change too much either.
Verdict: False. Cannabis is decriminalized in both countries.
Myth Buster 10: Prohibition was to Protect Children
We’ll take an extra serving of NOPE! with this last myth. Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, cannabis prohibition had very little to children, and a whole lot to do with politics, stigma, and discrimination.
Children do factor in, however, but only because following decriminalization of cannabis in several states in the 1970s there were some pretty “out there” marketing efforts aimed at children. This sparked the war on cannabis throughout the 80s.
Verdict: Not really. Prohibition was a lot more complicated than protecting children.
Cannabis Myths Busted!
With cannabis still in a precarious stage of social acceptance, being able to provide proper, accurate information is important. Given the rocky history of cannabis, it’s understandable that misconceptions exist. However, if we want to see the continued success and growth in this industry, now more than ever, we need to set the record straight and ensure that information being shared about cannabis and cannabis use is based in facts.