As of 2021, forty-eight states in the United States have approved marijuana for medicinal or similarly controlled use, and with the long and storied history of medical cannabis in civilizations throughout the world, it’s about time. In 18 states, like Colorado, recreational use is legal.
Yet, the federal government continues to keep the prohibition on the books, and some of these common marijuana myths may explain that decision.
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1. Myth: Marijuana is a Gateway Drug
Do most people who use “hard drugs” have a history of using marijuana? Yes, they do.
In many communities, marijuana is easier for a child to get their hands on than alcohol. So it’s only natural that most would have tried it.
But does marijuana open up the door to other substance abuse and addiction? No study has ever been able to show a cause-and-effect relationship.
Most people who use marijuana as adults prefer marijuana to other recreational drug experiences. Many also drink alcohol, but somehow we’ve never said marijuana was the gateway to alcohol abuse. It isn’t that either, by the way.
2. Myth: Marijuana Legalization Increases Violent Crime
Researchers have tried but failed to somehow show a link between marijuana and murder rates. Others have tried to link marijuana usage to school shootings. A massive 2013 study conducted by Rand Corp. analyzed years of marijuana and drug data and found no link between marijuana usage and violent crime.
They determined that some of the “perceived” links were the result of not accounting for confounding variables like poverty, which is closely linked to the crime rate.
So, yes, it’s okay to visit a Colorado dispensary. It’s not going to make you kill someone.
3. Myth: Today’s Weed Is Dangerously Potent
They say, “this isn’t your dad’s weed”, and legalization is allowing for the creation of strains with higher and higher THC levels. But you know what? THC levels have been on the rise since the 1940s, and prohibitionists have been using this claim to justify prohibition all that time.
As any marijuana aficionado can tell you, more THC doesn’t equal better weed. Cannabis is a complex plant with numerous cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids all working together to deliver an experience.
We are cultivating weed to have more THC. But this is no change from the days of total prohibition.
So we can call this a half-truth.
4. Myth: Marijuana Prohibition Protects Children
Marijuana is more popular among teens than cigarettes, which are more readily available in most places in the country. And usage among teens is roughly the same when you compare states that have legalized recreational marijuana, like Colorado, to others.
Given the fact that states like Colorado use the extra funds the legal industry generates to support programs that prevent teen use and adult abuse, it stands to reason that the opposite of this myth is true.
5. Myth: Federal Prisons Are Full of Marijuana Criminals
Even in places where marijuana is illegal, very few people actually end up in prison for possession.
Those who do are almost always committing other crimes. Many of these other crimes wouldn’t exist if marijuana were legal there.
6. Myth: Marijuana Causes Cancer
The argument goes that we’re spending all of this money trying to ban cigarettes because they cause lung cancer, so why would we legalize marijuana?
Well, during a UCLA study, researchers could find no correlation between the two, even with heavy use. The scientists who conducted this study had expected to find a link, so the fact that they are willing to admit they found nothing speaks to their integrity.
Further studies have shown that marijuana may have an anti-tumor effect, but more research is needed.
7. Myth: Usage Causes Dependence And Addiction
A small percentage of heavy marijuana users do experience dependence and addiction. We’d be irresponsible to overlook this fact.
But the percentages are far below heroin, cocaine, and even alcohol.
Consider how many people use marijuana recreationally, even in states where it’s not legal. Then compare the number of people who actually end up in rehab. It’s hard to say exactly. But you can ask any addiction treatment center, admissions for marijuana addiction are almost non-existent.
They’re more common in youth addiction treatment facilities where parents enroll the child out of worry about their future, usually because the parents believe some of these myths.
8. Myth: Marijuana Users Are Getting Stoned All the Time
No, most of them have regular jobs, kids, and a normal life.
Around 40-50% of US adults who’ve ever used marijuana have done so several times but have never been active users.
Then around 30% of users use it about 10 days a year.
Researchers estimate that around 6 million users (roughly 2% of the US population) use it every day, but in small quantities. So small, they don’t have any significant psychoactive effects. These users are a small group but account for most marijuana sales in both states where it’s legal and those where it isn’t. Interesting.