Will Marijuana Myths Ever Go Away?
One of the main reasons why the heated debate on the legalisation of marijuana doesn’t progress is that both sides of the conversation rely on some myths, but present them as facts. This is largely because it’s difficult to disprove many of these myths, as more research is still needed to illuminate certain gray areas. As it currently stands, many experiments carried out so far have yielded conflicting results, since the effects of cannabis significantly depends on the user’s unique body chemistry. However, some conclusive evidence has emerged that completely debunk certain myths. The following myths about marijuana use have been comprehensively disproven, and have no place in the conversation.
Marijuana use has been linked to the recent opioid crisis by the government without any substantial evidence. Source
1. Marijuana is a gateway drug
Despite being one of the major points raised against the legalisation of cannabis, claims about the “gateway” effect of marijuana actually have no statistical truth. The claim that marijuana use leads to the abuse of other hard drugs has been rebuffed in places with cannabis-oriented cultures such as countries in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.
The claims of marijuana being a gateway drug first surfaced in the sixties when marijuana became the most widely used recreational drug. These claims were heavily challenged in the eighties when cocaine abuse became epidemic while marijuana use went into decline. However, part of the reason why these claims continue to persist today is the fact that there have been many instances where people switch to the use of other hard drugs when marijuana is in short supply due to prohibition laws. However, one way to interpret such facts is that marijuana users turn to other hard drugs only because of prohibition laws, instead of inferring that marijuana use actually triggers cravings for other hard drugs.
2. Marijuana degrades brain cells
This used to be a major point, heavily relied on by the opposition. It came as a result of false interpretations of the structural changes observed in animal brain cells that were exposed to high doses of marijuana. But the results of many other studies on the effects of marijuana on animal brain cells have been unequivocal, clearly debunking any claims of significant brain damage caused by marijuana use. Studies by Dr. William Slickker of the National Center for Toxological Research, and another by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International all show that exposure to high doses of cannabis does not bring about any significant psychological effects. This result has been replicated in studies involving heavy human users in Costa Rica and Jamaica.
3. Outlawing marijuana use curbs harms caused by smoking cannabis
It’s obvious that disciplinary policies have not been successful in rooting out marijuana use in most parts of the world. Rather than reduce the harm which abuse of marijuana can cause to society, prohibition laws have backfired in most cases, preventing the development and widespread use of smoking devices that minimise the harm from marijuana use. Since prohibition laws give rise to price markups in the black market, many users continue to prefer smoking over consuming edibles because the latter, which is the safer delivery system, requires relatively larger quantities of marijuana (which cost more) to induce a high.
4. Marijuana is ten times more potent today than half a century ago
This assumption is based on a deliberate mix-up in government data. The DEA deceitfully compared drab, low-potency Mexican “Kilobricks” that were left inside police lockers since the early 70’s to recently harvested dried marijuana leaves to make it look like the recent ones had a significantly higher potency. However, even in the sixties, high-potency strains like Alcapulco Gold, Panama Red, and many more were in wide circulation. A meticulous comparison of relevant data obtained in modern times show that marijuana potency has been increasing on a constant average of only one or two points. Also, in contrast to what many believe, high potency does not correlate to heightened risks, because users will most likely adjust their doses according to the level of potency of the strain used.
5. Marijuana is harmless
Diverse personal factors significantly affect the way marijuana interacts with each person’s body. Source
Although marijuana isn’t nearly as harmful as the other hard drugs tied with it in the DEA’s Schedule 1, it still comes with certain health risks that users need to be wary of. This is mostly due to the fact that personal factors like genetics, tolerance levels, and mental health history can have a huge impact on how a person’s body reacts to marijuana use.
Regardless of which side of the legalisation debate a person might fall, misinformation should not be permitted. When marijuana legalisation is considered, the decision should be made based on facts based in sound research and adapted to each region’s unique values and culture. While marijuana clearly does not belong in a category with extremely harmful and addictive drugs, the slow process of legalisation is a good time to thoughtfully consider the health of the country as a whole – so when legalisation finally passes, it can be done right, the first time.