Cannabis is nothing new and in fact, has been used throughout history for medical and recreational purposes. Unfortunately due to some heavy marketing from governments and media coverage, there are many myths surrounding cannabis that have lingered for decades which are in fact not true. We intend to put things straight once and for all.
You’ve probably heard all the rumours – cannabis kills brain cells, smoking cannabis is just as bad as smoking cigarettes, cannabis makes you lazy and so on. It can often be difficult to find real facts (and not just alternative facts), especially when you’re dealing with something that’s so heavily stigmatized and something that hasn’t been meticulously researched as other drugs.
Myth #1: Cannabis is a “Gateway” to Other Drugs
This is a big one and is often cited as the primary reason to outlaw cannabis altogether. However, there is no scientific evidence that marijuana is a “gateway” drug to something harder. The cannabis-using cultures in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa show no propensity for hard drugs. The gateway theory took hold in the sixties, when marijuana became the leading new recreational drug among youth. It was refuted in the eighties, when cocaine abuse exploded in America at the same time marijuana use declined.
While users of high strength drugs such as cocaine, heroin or even LSD are also statistically more likely to have tried cannabis in the past, there is no linkage between them. When comparing the number of cannabis users with hard-drug users, the numbers are extremely small – suggesting that there is no link at all. For most people, cannabis is a terminus drug, not a gateway drug, meaning people don’t transition away from it, seeking a more potent high.
Myth #2: Cannabis Increases Crime
Some people believe that cannabis use leads to violence and that this leads to a higher crime rate. But the facts just don’t stack up. Serious research into this area has found that cannabis users are often less likely to commit crimes because of its effect in reducing aggression, not increasing it. Scientists have agreed that alcohol is a much bigger problem when it comes to violence and aggression.
Myth #3: Cannabis Causes Memory Loss and Reduction in Logic
You’ve probably heard the joke about the stupid stoner who forgets his or her car keys or can’t tie shoes on. While Hollywood might find this funny, this is in fact an exaggeration. Researchers have shown that cannabis diminishes the short term memory, but only when a person is intoxicated with it. It is no different than when someone is drunk on alcohol. A person who has taken cannabis will be able to remember things learned before they took it but may have trouble learning new information during intoxication. In addition, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this can become a long-term or permanent problem.
Myth #4: Cannabis Causes Loss of Motivation
We’ve all heard about the lazy stoner who does nothing but sit on his or her couch and smoke cannabis (Again thank you Hollywood). However, studies done on test subjects in which they were given a high dose of cannabis regularly over a period of days or weeks found that there was no loss in motivation or ability to perform. Of course, abuse of any intoxicating substance over long periods will reduce a person’s ability to function normally, but cannabis is no better or worse than alcohol or other drugs. Furthermore, studies indicate that cannabis users tend to have higher paid jobs than non-users which means cannabis users are just as productive members of society.
Myth #5: Modern Cannabis is Much Stronger
The reason that this myth has come about is from samples taken by drug enforcement agencies across the world. These samples are used to test for potency but they are a tiny sample of the entire cannabis market. The vast majority of cannabis taken today is the same potency as it has been for decades. In fact, there is statistical data on cannabis potency dating back to the 1980s which is more reliable than present methods of detection, and that shows little or no increase in cannabis potency.
When we look at samples of marijuana taken in the ‘70s, they were almost always taken from low-potency growers, whose potency had deteriorated to subpar levels of less than 0.5%. These were compared to later samples of decent-quality cannabis, making it appear that potency had skyrocketed. Part of this has to do with the ability of the average grower and another part is the availability of cannabis on the market today, among other factors A careful examination of the data show that average cannabis potency increased only by a factor of two or so during the seventies, and has been more or less constant ever since.
Bonus: Myth #6: Cannabis is Addictive
While it’s possible to become dependent on marijuana, it only happens in a minority of users. Research suggests that about nine percent of marijuana users became clinically dependent at some point, compared to 15 percent of cocaine users and 24 percent of heroin users.
Less than one percent of Australians smoke cannabis more than once per day and those users, a tiny minority develop what appears to be a dependence and rely on the assistance of drug rehabilitation services to stop smoking but there is nothing in cannabis which causes physical dependence. The most likely explanation for those who need assistance is that they are having difficulty breaking the habit, just like coffee and is not considered an addition.
It’s true cannabis smoke, like tobacco smoke, contains carcinogens but even frequent cannabis smokers typically consume much less pot than tobacco smokers do cigarettes, probably not enough to cause cancer. A 2006 UCLA study concluded that even heavy cannabis use does not lead to any type of cancer.
As with almost anything, if you research it enough, you can find claims for almost anything. In Hollywood, cannabis has long been the butt of some comedy or other but it’s for laughs, not to educate. If you’re skeptical about whether something is true or not, don’t just look online. Talk to an expert who understands cannabis and can direct you properly.