While the legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use is on the rise, misinformation regarding marijuana remains rife, with much stigma still surrounding the plant, its uses, and its place in society.
Integrating cannabis as a major player in the global space opens up a dialogue for education. In an attempt to facilitate the conversation, we’ve broken down 10 of the most persistent myths about cannabis – giving you the real facts instead.
Does the pot ban work? Can it lead to addiction if used only occasionally? Is marijuana really a gateway drug? In this blog post, we will tackle the answers to these questions and more.
Myth #1: Marijuana is a Dangerous Drug
In reality, countless studies have shown evidence to the contrary. According to researchers cannabis is far less harmful than generally consumed and widely acceptable substances such as tobacco and alcohol. As for “hard” drugs like cocaine and heroin, the comparison is practically moot.
Myth #2: Marijuana is Entirely Harmless
As with anything in life, marijuana moderation is key. While the effects of smoking marijuana are far less toxic to the human body than, say, alcohol, heavy use could lead to some harmful side effects. To clarify, this is only referring to consumption through smoking.
In fact, heavy pot smokers carry the same health risks as cigarette smokers, such as bronchitis and other respiratory ailments, since pot smoke is chemically similar to tobacco smoke. The solution is simple. There is a multitude of methods of ingesting cannabis besides smoking, such as edibles, oils, capsules, and tinctures, among others.
Myth #3: Cannabis is a ‘Gateway’ to ‘Hard’ Drugs
The stigma surrounding cannabis as a ‘gateway’ drug leading to the use of ‘harder’ drugs like cocaine and heroin was popularized in the 80s and continues to be a concern for the parents of kids experimenting with the plant.
While some studies suggest that cannabis affects the neural pathways in the brain in such a way that users begin to develop an affinity for illicit substances, there isn’t a whole lot of scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Sure, many individuals do go on to use other substances after experimenting with marijuana, but there is absolutely nothing to suggest that cannabis is the root cause of further experimentation with more dangerous drugs.
In fact, a report by the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally related to the abuse of other illicit substances.
Myth #4: Most Cannabis Enthusiasts are Heavy Users
The statistics prove that this myth is simply not true. Actually, almost half of the people who have tried cannabis claim to have a lifetime total of fewer than 12 days of use.
In the U.S., more than a third of pot smokers used marijuana for 10 days or less in the previous year, and about 6 million of the 30 million Americans over the age of 12 used marijuana on a daily or almost-daily basis.
This is roughly a fifth of those who report having used marijuana in the year prior, but they accounted for nearly 80 percent of marijuana consumption overall.
Myth #5: Using Cannabis Leads to Addiction
Research suggests that about nine percent of marijuana users became clinically dependent, compared to 15 percent of cocaine users and 24 percent of heroin users.
So marijuana may be possible to become dependent on, but this only happens in a minority of the already relatively small category of heavy users.
Myth #6: Cannabis Use Equals Crime & Delinquency
Fearmongering PSAs and after-school specials have set cannabis up as an evil seed causing individuals to become involved in a life of crime and delinquency. Although the rate of marijuana consumption is higher among offenders in comparison to nonoffenders, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that cannabis is a driving force behind criminal behavior.
As evidence to the contrary, in fact, cannabis, unlike alcohol, for example, generally doesn’t lead to aggressive behavior, making it far more difficult to link the plant to violent crime.
Myth #7: Cannabis…Causes Cancer?
Sure, marijuana smoke, like tobacco smoke, contains carcinogens. However, even the most hardcore of weed smokers consume way less cannabis than cigarette smokers do tabacco, more than likely an amount not able to cause cancer.
In 2006, a UCLA study determined that even if you are smoking all day, everyday cannabis does not result in lung cancer. In a nutshell, the study concluded that there was little to no association between marijuana consumption and lung cancer. Instead, a suggestion of some protective effect was even discovered.
This is just one of many studies that suggest that cannabis can actually impede the growth of cancerous tumors. And, again, there are a plethora of other ways to consume cannabis that don’t involve the risks associated with smoking.
Myth #8: Loads of People are in Prison for Marijuana Possession
Although the legalization of cannabis, both recreationally and medicinally continues to progress globally, consumption and possession continues to remain illegal in many parts of the world. In the U.S. alone roughly 750, 000 people are arrested every year for marijuana offenses. Of course, the punishment varies from state to state and country to country.
Not all cannabis-related arrests lead to prosecutions, and the number of individuals who are convicted of possession and land themselves in prison is relatively low. In most cases fines are issued or community supervision is implemented.
Less than one percent of the approximately 40,000 inmates serving time in state and federal prisons are incarcerated solely for the possession of marijuana. In the majority of these cases, distribution has played a large role in their convictions.
Myth #9: Cannabis is Totally Legal in Holland & Portugal
Image by Depositphotos.com via Dutch News
Although the use of cannabis is generally tolerated in the Netherlands, the Dutch government as never formally legalized marijuana. However, an official policy was implemented in the 70s that tolerates the possession of small amounts, or “coffee shops.”
Essentially, this means that the sale of small quantities of soft drugs in coffee shops is a criminal offence but the Public Prosecution Service does not prosecute the roughly 700 coffee shops for this offence. Nevertheless, the distribution, growth, and import of cannabis remains a crime in the Netherlands.
Similarly, although Portugal has decriminalized all drugs, legalization is a whole different ball game. The use, possession, and acquisition of cannabis remain administrative offenses in Portugal, punishable by civil sanctions such as fines or community service.
Myth #10: Prohibition of Marijuana Protects Children
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The consumption of cannabis by teenagers continues to rise – in 2011 a 30-year peak of marijuana use was noted among teens. Nowadays, teenagers reportedly smoke more marijuana than cigarettes and one in 15 high school students admit to smoking cannabis most days.
However, despite the rising number of teenagers consuming cannabis, the important takeaway here is that teenagers don’t use cannabis any more in the areas where marijuana is legal, than in the ones where it’s illegal. In fact, those advocating for the legalization of cannabis argue that the best way to regulate minor consumption is through legalization and education.
Photo by Raedle via Getty Images
Why it’s Important to Bust Cannabis Myths
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Our world is constantly changing and growing, whether we like it or not. And, with the legalization of marijuana on the rise we need to learn to navigate in this ever-evolving space. The best way to this is through education and breaking down the stigma surrounding cannabis by busting the myths and presenting the cold, hard facts.
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