Whether due to long-standing public misconceptions marijuana’s effects or government propaganda efforts aimed at stirring up moral panic about the substance in a credible population, an enormous number of patently false myths about marijuana have persisted in the public consciousness for generations.
And while no substance in history is more shrouded in myth than marijuana, an increasing number of individuals are finally discovering the benefits of this often-misunderstood plant. Here are just five marijuana myths that are worth debunking, and why getting the facts right on cannabis is an important first step towards understanding the good that the plant can bring to people from all walks of life.
1. Marijuana is a Gateway Drug
Despite the persistent efforts of anti-marijuana crusaders to spread propaganda to the general public over the last four decades, the notion that marijuana use opens the door to hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine has been shown to be patently false. Indeed, during the 1980s, a global rise in cocaine use was actually accompanied by an overall drop in the use of marijuana by the public.
In fact, cannabis use is associated with slower rates of injection initiation among at-risk youth, according to data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review. So why has the unfounded and terrible rumor about marijuana’s supposed “gateway” properties persisted in the public imagination for so long? In general, propaganda about cannabis has historically tended to play on fears that any substance other than tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol is immoral to use.
Despite the fact that alcohol use causes far more problems in society than marijuana, cannabis has been demonized as a threat to the general public since at least the early 20th Century.
While marijuana is now legal to purchase in countries such as Canada, there remains a common misconception in the public imagination that cannabis cannot be ordered online. In fact, contacting a mail order dispensary is now easier than ever; the myth about the illegality of online marijuana delivery services may come down to general confusion about the law’s application to substances sent through the mail.
3. Marijuana Robs Users of Their Ambition
As many people will tell you, an age-old stereotype of marijuana users is that they have no ambition or personal drive to succeed. In fact, some of the most successful individuals in history have regularly used marijuana. Astronomer and public intellectual Carl Sagan was known to be a lifelong cannabis smoker and advocate of the plant’s use, for example, and entrepreneur Steve Jobs regularly smoked marijuana prior to founding the Apple computing company.
Like the myth of marijuana as a “gateway drug,” rumors about cannabis taking away the ambition of users originated at a time of moral panic about marijuana consumption in society. In the United States, for example, politicians have cracked down for years on cannabis users in order to build a “tough on crime” reputation with voters. Unfortunately, misinformation spread by unscrupulous or uninformed politicians has allowed many myths about cannabis to flourish throughout the world.
4. Marijuana Use Can Cause Lung Cancer
While cigarettes and marijuana are both typically smoked by users, the similarities between the two seem to stop there. In a recent study at UCLA, in fact, scientists found no link between marijuana use and lung cancer; they even concluded that marijuana may do much to prevent the disease in regular users.
5. Current Marijuana Strains are More Potent
While marijuana growers have certainly had success in creating high-THC crops in recent years, myths about current cannabis strains being much more potent than strains from the 1960s and 1970s may be greatly exaggerated.
Indeed, studies about the potency of marijuana have tended to rely on samples confiscated by police in drug raids; these samples were often left in storage units for prolonged periods of time and undoubtedly lost much of their potency in the process.
While there may be some truth to the notion that current strains of cannabis have a slightly higher THC content than the strains of yesteryear, the general consensus among growers is that wider availability of cannabis and more efficient smoking methods have caused confusion about the strength of current strains.
While more and more people are learning about the benefits of marijuana, the truth is that much misinformation is still being spread about the drug’s effects. However, the legalization of marijuana in countries such as Canada and in US states such as Colorado and Oregon seems to be a sign that the general public is becoming more informed about the benefits of marijuana use.