It is not exactly surprising that marijuana myths abound. Prohibition has been built on lies, and massive propaganda campaigns, scare tactics, false stereotypes, and untruths have brainwashed millions. Despite more widespread acknowledgement of its medical value, many people still misunderstand marijuana and the benefits it offers to both individuals and society. Marijuana myths!
Debunking Marijuana Myths
Federal anti-drug policies make debunking these outlandish misconceptions significantly more difficult, as they themselves perpetuate fear-mongering, inaccurate stereotyping, and biased conclusions, leaving citizens uneducated and unable to separate fact from fiction. The best chance we have of exposing false information is through scientific discovery and public awareness.
Here are four false anti-marijuana sentiments most of us have heard of at some time in our lives, debunked with hard facts.
Myth 1: Marijuana is a gateway drug. Marijuana myths!
Despite scientists debunking this myth in several well-published studies, it stubbornly persists. It is true that many users of hard, illicit drugs do have a history of marijuana use. However, the same is true of both tobacco and alcohol, yet nobody considers them gateways to drug abuse. This is because making a cause out of a correlation is foolish at best, except when it comes to weed.
The gateway theory lacks even more logic when you delve deeper into the social implications of its argument. In an article in Psychology Today, Constance Scharff, Ph.D., names tobacco and alcohol as more sensible culprits of gateway drugs. She writes:
Many people mistakenly believe that marijuana use precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use. In fact, most drug use begins with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, making nicotine and alcohol the two most common drugs of abuse.
Another interesting study, conducted by Dr. Karen Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, suggests that there may be other aspects of causation hiding in the gateway theory. She had this to say:
Pot does serve as a ‘gateway,’ (but this is) mainly for young people who are poor, unemployed, and subjected to severe psychological stress. Thus, this study clearly indicates that other aspects of causation hiding in the gateway theory. Thus, this study clearly indicates that other aspects of causation hiding in the gateway theory.
Bigger social issues, such as poverty and unemployment, may play a more important role in illicit drug use than marijuana does. Calling weed a gateway drug ignores the multiple and complicated factors that explain why serious drug users turn to various substances, which include psychological and environmental influences.
Myth 2: Tobacco is better for your lungs than cannabis. Marijuana myths!
Tobacco companies spent years perpetuating the idea that cigarette smoke is less harmful to your lungs than cannabis smoke. Regardless of the perceived rationale of these arguments, from deeper marijuana inhalation to not using filters, not one study exists proving marijuana is indeed more dangerous than tobacco. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is no link between marijuana and lung damage:
Marijuana may have beneficial effects on pain control, appetite, mood, and management of other chronic symptoms. Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana for these or other purposes may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function. It is more difficult to estimate the potential effects of regular heavy use, because this pattern of use is relatively rare in our study sample; however, our findings do suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavy use and a resulting need for caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.
Yet another research team found that tobacco and marijuana smoke are not equally carcinogenic, and a study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of California San Francisco found tobacco to be more damaging to the lungs than marijuana. This does not mean that smoking pot has no harmful effect on the lungs, as any smoke-related inhalation can have pulmonary repercussions.
However, multiple research studies show tobacco to be worse for lungs than weed. Remember that for both pot and tobacco smoke, the effect on your lungs will depend on how much you consume. If you want to use marijuana without smoking it, there are many other methods of consumption that are just as effective, if not more, such as eating, drinking, or vaping it.
Myth 3: Marijuana use increases crime rates.Marijuana myths!
Reefer Madness, a 1936 film, is a prime example of the ability of propaganda to induce waves of fear among anti-marijuana advocates, even 80 years after its release. There may be some logic in linking marijuana to crime, but as with the gateway lie, this argument ignores other social issues that may be, and likely are, at play.
This myth persists because of marijuana’s listing on the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and its legal status in our justice system. Using crime statistics and trends as an argument for prohibition simply does not make sense, especially as society’s goal should be to reduce arrest rates and free police officers to focus on issues that are significantly more serious than smoking a joint.
We can look deeper into the relationship between crime and cannabis by delving into a study conducted in London. The borough of Lambeth decriminalized marijuana for a full year. During
that time, there was a large reduction in all criminal activities, including non-drug related and violent crimes. According to the study’s findings:
We use the key lessons from this localized policing experiment to shed light on what would be the impacts on crime if the same policy applied citywide, by developing and calibrating a model of the market for cannabis and crime, we account for the behavior of police and cannabis users.
Due to this experimental policy change, the borough was able to decrease crime rates and gain a better understanding of how marijuana functions within communities. By enabling police to prioritize high-risk crimes instead of targeting low-risk pot offenders, the policy was able to improve overall safety throughout the entire borough.
Back in March, an article in The Washington Post discussed the positive and highly noticeable effect that Colorado’s legal marijuana industry was having on crime rates in Denver: “The total number of marijuana court cases fell from 39,207 in 2011 to 2,036 cases in 2014. Those 37,000 fewer cases represent a savings of untold millions of dollars in court costs and law enforcement fees.”
According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, crime rates have been dropping overall since the state legalized recreational weed. During Amendment 64’s first year of implementation, violent crime rates decreased by 2.2 percent. The Drug Policy Alliance corroborates these findings, and cites an 8.9 percent reduction in property crimes too.
More important, it stated the obvious: “They represent 37,000 fewer people who have to deal with the stigma and financial burden of an arrest and possible conviction.” Marijuana does not indicate criminal behavior, nor is it the cause of it. Instead, anti-drug laws blame weed for unrelated issues within communities. All this does is promote illegal activity and increase trade on the black market.
Myth 4: You will get addicted to marijuana. Marijuana myths!
As with all good things in life, the general rule of cannabis is to use it in moderation and with responsibility. Any substance can become bad for your health if taken in excess, including coffee and most foods like Brazil nuts or fish oil. Many people are food addicts, exercise junkies, and even sleep zombies. It’s all about how much time or focus they put into these legal substances and activities.
Cases of marijuana dependency do exist. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 percent of users develop dependency issues. The organization says that symptoms of cannabis addiction mimic mild withdrawal syndrome:
Frequent marijuana users often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to two weeks.
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Using Medical Marijuana Responsibly
Addiction is a risk that you take when over-consuming any substance. This is why both mindset and awareness are so important when using medical marijuana. Only through truthful education and correct protocols can people learn of the potential dangers, regardless of how small or rare. Spreading fear and misinformation about medical marijuana only confuses and intimidates vulnerable people.
Facts are that the cannabis plant is a medical wonder. Hundreds of scientific studies are establishing what we have known for centuries already. People have been using it to treat a myriad of medical conditions since ancient times, and today, we know that cannabinoids are highly effective at treating most diseases and their symptoms, including chronic pain, the most common complaint worldwide.
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