Marijuana has faced stigma since it first came to the public’s attention. Canada’s House of Commons criminalized the drug in 1923 before it had even earned a widespread reputation. It remained completely illegal for all purposes until the early 21st century, when a court ruling led to Canada’s first medical marijuana laws. Still, cannabis users continue to attract negative attention, even as more Canadians support legalization.
This stigma becomes especially problematic when it draws upon misinformation or outright fabrications. False information about marijuana doesn’t just hurt the people who use it recreationally. Medical patients who could benefit from cannabis treatment may not consider the drug due to its poor standing. As a result, they may continue to suffer needlessly from pain, appetite loss, nausea, and other conditions that marijuana can reduce.
The best way to combat the most common misconceptions about weed is to disprove them. In that spirit, this article will outline just a few of the common myths about marijuana and show why they hold less water than a small bong.
1. Cannabis Is a Gateway Drug
The “gateway drug” myth is so prevalent that many people can’t divorce it from the substance itself. Its guiding principle is that marijuana causes users to develop a taste for its effects, which will ultimately lead them to abuse other, harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Like many marijuana misconceptions, this idea mistakes cause for correlation. It assumes that cannabis causes users to gravitate toward other drugs, when other factors may play a more substantial role in this shift.
The myth doesn’t even hold up to scrutiny when other drugs are invoked. Alcohol and nicotine usually precede marijuana use, yet neither are criminalized, let alone labeled “gateway drugs.” Marijuana continues to bear the brunt of this falsehood, even though it’s demonstrably inaccurate.
2. Marijuana Use Causes Violence
Marijuana and criminality have existed side by side in the popular consciousness since the 1930s. What can you expect when a drug is criminalized before the general public even knows it exists? Despite a lack of evidence, cannabis use has long been seen as a harbinger of violent crime.
While assault and murder have surrounded the marijuana trade in the past, it’s largely due to its status as an illegal drug. A lack of regulation leaves traffickers with little recourse other than violence should something go wrong. There’s little evidence to show that the substance itself actually causes violent behaviour, and recent studies suggest that sites for marijuana trafficking, such as dispensaries, don’t suffer from higher crime rates.
3. Cannabis Is Highly Addictive
Cannabis addiction is a valid concern. Users can come to depend on the drug, especially if they come to abuse. Yet marijuana’s potential for addiction is miniscule compared to other narcotics.
Nine percent of cannabis users become dependent on the drug, compared to 23 percent of those who try heroin and 17 percent of cocaine consumers. Even legal drugs are more addictive than cannabis. Fifteen percent of alcohol drinkers develop an addiction to it, while 32 percent of smokers suffer from nicotine dependency. These statistics don’t mean that marijuana addiction is insignificant, but they do show that it’s highly overestimated.
4. Marijuana Severely Alters Your Brain
Common misconceptions about weed aren’t limited to discussions of public safety and addiction. You’re as likely to hear stories about the substance’s negative effects on the brain as you are to hear about its role in criminality. In reality, both are exaggerated.
Studies do show that marijuana users’ brains differ from those of non-users. Yet the studies’ authors have never claimed that marijuana is the source of these changes. In fact, they’ve even spoken out against this assertion, showing that confusion between cause and correlation still rein when it comes to marijuana discussions.
5. Cannabis Is Harmless
Most myths about marijuana inflate its negative effects at the expense of its benefits. Unfortunately, many cannabis advocates do the exact opposite, ignoring its harmful effects while singing its praises. This results in more common misconceptions about weed.
Marijuana still causes addiction in some users, and smoking the drug does create carcinogens that can cause serious health problems. The stigma surrounding marijuana use is excessive, but that doesn’t mean the drug’s harmful aspects should be disregarded.