Marijuana Myths Debunked
The more that marijuana legalization becomes a hot topic of discussion, the more we hear about it from all sides of the debate. Some people claim cannabis is a miracle plant capable of solving all the world’s problems. Others say it’s the most dangerous thing imaginable. How do we sort through all the rhetoric and propaganda to figure out what’s going on with marijuana? Fortunately, the growing body of scientific studies currently being done on cannabis has given us concrete answers to a lot of the stuff we hear. Here’s a list of the top 5 biggest marijuana myths, along with how science has helped us debunk them.
Myth #1: You can overdose on marijuana.
This one’s the classic of all classics. And it still has teeth.
In 2014, a police chief in Maryland argued against marijuana legalization by saying that 37 people had overdosed on cannabis immediately after Colorado legalized it.
Of course, he didn’t realize he was citing a satire piece from The Onion. But the real point here is that the article didn’t register as a joke because he sincerely believes it’s possible to overdose and die from marijuana.
This myth was addressed by a study that was submitted to the DEA way back in 1988. Here’s what the report had to say about the possibility of overdosing on marijuana:
“A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”
Given that fact, the study concluded that “in practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.”
Myth #2: Marijuana addiction is on the rise.
This is one of the biggest myths currently being thrown around. It’s based on a study that was published in December 2015 and that got a lot of attention in the media. The study claimed that marijuana use disorders were on the rise.
A couple of months later, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis did their study. Their results refuted the claim that marijuana use disorders are increasing.
They said that the original study used potentially flawed research methods to reach its conclusions.
“About 10 or 15 percent of the people who have utilized in the last year are using some problematic level,” said Dr. Richard Grucza.
“What we are finding is that ratio has gone down. So, the percentage of users that have problems with marijuana has decreased over the past ten years.”
Myth #3: Marijuana has no proven medical benefits.
This is one of the most common myths about marijuana. It’s so common, in fact, that it’s become one of the main reasons cited by the U.S. government for why cannabis has been outlawed.
Marijuana is classified by the DEA as a Schedule I drug. Drugs in that category are defined as:
“drugs, substances, or chemicals . . . with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
However, recent studies have called this assumption into question.
Toward the end of 2015, for example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse updated its fact sheet for cannabis. The change came after some animal studies found that marijuana could effectively kill certain types of cancer cells.
And a more recent study conducted by researchers at Hebrew University in Israel concluded that “the treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis . . . resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.”
“The results suggest a long-term benefit of cannabis treatment.”
Myth #4: A high driver is as dangerous as a drunk driver.
The assumption that is driving a car while high is more or less the same as driving while drunk may seem to make sense on the surface. But, recent studies have also questioned that assumption.
The most recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that consuming marijuana before driving does not significantly increase the likelihood of getting into a wreck.
Drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 are four times more likely than a sober driver to get in a crash. Drivers with a BAC of .15 are 12 times more likely.
However, the chances that a driver with THC in her system will get into a wreck are only 5% higher than those for a completely sober driver.
And for those of you who prefer bicycles, a group of researchers in Australia and Germany found that smoking marijuana does not affect a person’s ability to ride a bike.
Myth #5: Legalizing marijuana will put kids at risk.
The numbers just don’t back up the myth that legalizing marijuana will put young people at greater risk.
The 2015 Monitoring, the Future Survey, said:
“Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, did not show any significant change in annual prevalence this year”—even after multiple states legalized recreational marijuana use.
“After rising for several years, the annual prevalence of marijuana has more or less leveled out since about 2010.”