We’ve all been there. Listening to someone waxing poetically about cannabis and the absolute truths on the subject. They tell you it will almost assuredly lead to the use of other, harder drugs in most cases. They go on and on about how if you smoke cannabis, you’ll become addicted and won’t be able to live without it and just think of what that will do to your poor mother. This person, though their heart may be in the right place, is lying to you. The truth is most “truths” you’ve been told about cannabis and hemp have more than likely been poorly researched and in many cases were outright falsehoods. Many of the people spreading misinformation about cannabis genuinely believe the things they say. But why is there so much misinformation on the subject and when did it start?
There wasn’t always so much false information about the cannabis plant floating around. In fact, here in the United States in 1619, a law was passed in Virginia that said that every farm in the colony must grow hemp. It was used to make common items like paper, rope, canvas, and many other things. It was also an accepted form of currency in that and other colonies at the time. While cotton may have been an obvious and welcome replacement for hemp in clothing, that doesn’t exactly explain how such an industrial plant over the years went from mandatory to criminal. Flash forward to about the 1930s. Alcohol prohibition had recently been repealed and the people in the business of punishing folks for drinking needed somewhere new to set their sights. Unfortunately, racism was rampant in that era and the growing popularity of cannabis use with Mexican immigrants and African American communities made it an easy target. However, widespread misinformation campaigns about the use and side effects of cannabis were just beginning to pop up.
Reefer Madness is likely the most widely recognized example of the demonization of cannabis in film. It portrayed seemingly normal, upstanding young men and women getting together and smoking some cannabis. However, shortly after they do, they become wildly unhinged and out of control. This is just one of many films that had one goal alone. To sway the view of people in the United States to associate cannabis use with terrifying effects and dangerous criminal behavior. There were many reasons people and organizations created these propaganda films. Religious reasons, racist reasons, and some companies even paid to have them made because hemp’s versatility in making products stood to possibly put them out of business. Regardless of the reason, the films were made and while they may today seem like funny relics of the past, the ideas they implanted into the minds of those who watched them have been passed on. They have undoubtedly had an impact on the legality of the plant and people’s opinions of those who use cannabis through the decades and even today. Here are some of the myths that have persisted through time.
- Cannabis is a Gateway Drug – We’ve all heard this one before. If you smoke weed, you’ll go on to do harder drugs. These stories usually go like this:
“I had a friend that had a friend that smoked weed one time and then a couple months later he was living on the streets doing all kinds of drugs and he was never the same.”
While the person they’re talking about may truly have had a terrible few months after trying cannabis, the two had nothing to do with each other. Here is the thing. People who do hard drugs are likely to have tried cannabis in the past. However, most people whose first experience with drugs is cannabis do not go on to try or become addicted to other, harder substances. In fact, there have been multiple studies that show cannabis use can be helpful in weening people off other, harder drugs. So, our first example of a popularly believed cannabis myth is not only not true, but the opposite is true. Using cannabis is not going to make you try other drugs. But should you find yourself addicted to some other drug; it may be a helpful way to try to quit.
- Cannabis is Addictive – This one kind of gets a little bit tricky. Is cannabis itself an addictive substance by definition? No. However, with daily users, some people may find themselves becoming somewhat emotionally dependent on it. What does this mean? Well, it certainly does not mean that you need to book a trip to rehab like you might with other substances. In basic terms, what it means is you become so familiar with the feeling of being under the influence of cannabis that you associate it with a lot of your regular activities. This can sometimes lead to people feeling a little bummed out or cranky when they then do those things without being under the influence. Fortunately, this is typically the extent of the negative effects, and it is not usually difficult for even heavy users to stop using or reduce their intake. Also, only a small fraction of those who use cannabis ever experience feeling in any way dependent. Significantly fewer than those who use other, harder drugs. So, like I said, this one is tricky. But is cannabis technically classified as an addictive substance? No.
- Legalization is bad for the country – There are a lot of people that, for whatever reason, believe that if we legalized cannabis on a federal level, it would lead to unimaginable horrors. From a spike in deadly car accidents to a rise in violent crime, and even the downfall of the economy. These beliefs are completely unfounded. In fact, in most cases the opposite is true. While it is not recommended and is highly illegal, driving a car while under the influence of cannabis is shown to be much less dangerous than driving drunk or under the influence of prescription medications. In countries where cannabis has been legalized or decriminalized, the crime rates did not spike. In fact, with the decrease of arrests for simple cannabis possession, overall crime often decreased. Economically speaking, Cannabis decriminalization and regulation in states that have adopted new laws regarding cannabis has been one of the most beneficial moves they have made. Billions of dollars a year are spent on cannabis in these states, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that goes to schools, bridges, and many other highly beneficial public services that we all benefit from. Along with that, cannabis decriminalization also creates tens of thousands of jobs that further boosts the economy. While this does a lot of good on a state level, federal legalization and reclassification would allow the entire United States to greatly benefit from the tax dollars that are generated by legal cannabis sales. In short, legalization would be very positive for both those who use it as well as those who don’t.
So, there you have it. These are not all the myths surrounding the cannabis world. A lot of them exist simply to sway you to believe a different way for reasons even the people who spread them don’t understand. Your best bet is to do your own research. Make sure you check your sources, too. Above all else, don’t simply believe what people tell you and if you decide to try something for yourself, be safe and have an open mind.