Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you are among the next generation that could see cannabis legalized across the United States since it was legally demonized in the 1920s.
Already 26 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized medical or recreational marijuana in some form, with nine of those having gone ‘full rec.’
Perhaps more awe-inspiring, you’ll also likely see the entire nation of Canada legalize recreational cannabis next year.
But hold it there, son: You might be among the lucky gen that enjoys legal weed, but you are likely far from properly enlightened about the myths swirling inside The Great Weed Debate.
There are many a myth inside that smoky debate, so here are a few dispelled.
Myth #1: Cannabis is a “Gateway Drug.”
Back in the day, the puritanical powers that be, terrified of anything that offered enjoyment, portrayed cannabis as a “gateway” to harder, unhealthier drugs such as cocaine, opioids, and even heroin.
However, the demonization of cannabis for this reason is a logical fallacy, known as the “correlation proves causation fallacy,” or, the faulty assumption that because there is a correlation between two variables, that one caused the other.
Just because drugs addicts use marijuana, does not mean marijuana causes drug addiction.
Emma Chasen, the director of education at Portland dispensary Farma, offers a new perspective.
“If we continue to treat cannabis as a bad drug in the same category as heroin and meth, then people who have an affinity for risk-taking will try cannabis and then also try something else,” says Chasen.
Chasen holds a degree in Medicinal Plant Research from Brown University. Perhaps dispelling a myth right off the bat, Chasen has also made strides in the field by “rejecting the Indica/Sativa binary and instead focusing on chemotypes to determine effect,” as she described it in her own words.
Not only is marijuana incorrectly identified as a gateway drug, but cannabis is better characterized as an “Exit Drug,” for it’s success in helping those in recovery from substance abuse.
According to the National Insitute on Drug Abuse’s (NIH) own statistics, only “1 in 6 people who start using as teens…become addicted.” In fact many people who try weed as teens, never smoke it again.
Trying applying that statistic to heroin or prescription opioids.
Myth #2: Cannabis causes cancer.
A 2014 story in The New York Times reported that very little evidence exists to prove cannabis consumption causes cancer. Furthermore, some medical professionals are exploring the idea that cannabis might actually cure cancer, and more and more highly respected doctors are using cannabis to treat the symptoms of the disease such as nausea caused by chemotherapy, pain, loss of appetite, and depression, among others.
While we are far from discovering that weed cures cancer, research shows that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound in cannabis that gets you “high,” can help regulate your body’s ribonucleic acid, or RNA.
RNA is responsible for keeping cells alive or killing them. Cancer changes the body’s RNA code to proliferate the cancerous cells, instead of killing them. A 1975 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that cannabis may have slowed cancerous tumor growth in mice.
“THC comes in and tells the RNA to stop,” Chasen explains. “THC codes for cell death and this is why we see tumor reduction when people who have cancer do use cannabis therapy.”
Another active compound in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), can reduce the size of some cancerous tumors, according to the British Journal for Clinical Pharmacology.
It’s also a little hard to believe thousands of doctors who recommend medical marijuana in those 26 states to treat HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, neuropathy, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington's disease, and a host of other conditions, are just totally chill with giving their patients cancer instead.
Myth #3: Cannabis causes anxiety.
Even taken fairly regularly (and not excessively) there is no scientific evidence that consuming cannabis is a cause of anxiety disorders.
English researcher Dr. Conal Twomey, of the University of Southhampton, found in a recent study that previous studies on the link between marijuana and anxiety suffered from a major, fatal flaw: they all used only known marijuana smokers as their subjects, rendering a useless conclusion that there is a correlation (but not causation) between marijuana use and increased anxiety.
Hold your horses again there, kid. That’s not to say there is no connection between cannabis and paranoia or anxiety. Anybody who didn’t wait that full hour for the edible to kick in and ate the whole thing can tell you that.
But the worst thing that can come of an overdose of THC is really just a bad trip — a temporary bad trip. Basically, the recommendation in that case is to just ‘sleep it off, man.’
CBD (minus the THC) has also shown very promising results in treating clinical anxiety.
Myth #4: Cannabis can kill you.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) admits there never been a single documented death due to overdosing on cannabis in the United States.
As Chasen explains: “THC can never bind to a receptor that can shut down your breathing, heart, or any other essential body function that works to keep [your body] alive.”
It’s a well-known fact in the medical community cannabis can’t really kill you — it takes roughly around a 1,000 times an effective dose to become lethal, compared with alcohol, which on average causes six deaths per day and needs only 10 times an effective dose to put you in the grave.
Myth #5: Cannabis makes you a lazy.
German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller once said: “If you can laugh at yourself, you are going to be fine. If you allow others to laugh with you, you will be great.”
Many say it’s time to end the “stoner” cliché by railing against the Cheech & Chong humor of the past. But there are many who also say: “embrace it…and prove it wrong.”
While there certainly can be an element of malaise caused by getting high, it’s hardly a hard and fast side consequence of using cannabis.
“Certain terpenes like limonene, the one found in citrus, and then also pinene, which is found in pine needles, that can help create a stimulating, focusing awareness and clarity of mind, where people can use it to work,” Chasen said.
Many CEOs of fortune 500 companies and some of the greatest minds in science have admitted to toking up once in a while, Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Carl Sagan are a few names of note.
Like all things in life, people use cannabis in moderation. If one was going to be lazy and unmotivated, chances are your didn’t need cannabis to achieve zero results anyway.