8 ridiculous cannabis myths that are still around in 2020

As cannabis enters its golden decade, there are still some prevailing myths that are sticking around.

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Cannabis has been demonized for a very, very long time. In fact, you can find anti-cannabis propaganda hailing back all the way from the 1930s

As a result (in addition to a lack of proper research), it’s often been difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to cannabis. 

So, as we enter a new, more educated decade, let’s set the record straight.

1. Cannabis is totally legal in Holland and Portugal.

The lore of the law around Amsterdam’s coffee shops has been greatly exaggerated. First, the Dutch have never formally legalized cannabis. The country’s official policy, since 1976, is to not enforce laws against possession when it comes to small amounts. Growing, distributing and importing cannabis is still illegal in the Netherlands. 

Like the laws in Holland, the laws in Portugal are also misunderstood. While cannabis has been decriminalized, that’s not the same as full legalization. Buying, possessing and using cannabis are administrative offenses in Portugal. Doing any of the above could be punishable by fines or community service. 

2. All indicas make you calm; all sativas give you energy. 

Nope. First of all, there really aren’t any pure indica or sativa strains out there thanks to the drug war. Second, the exact growing conditions of any strain will affect its effects on the user. And of course, there’s you, your cannabinoid receptors are different from anyone else’s and will react independently to different strains. 

In an interview with Complex, Mike Salman, co-founder of cannabis-infused dining concept Chef For Higher, explained that the difference between indica and sativa strains are not as simple as what most users think. “The chemical compounds will vary even if it’s the same strain — just like grapes in a vineyard,” Salman explains. “The effects you feel are generated by the chemical compounds found in the plant coupled with you — your individual self and endocannabinoid system — along with factors such as mood, blood sugar levels, if you’re hungry, tired, etc.,”

3. Cannabis causes cancer. 

Inhaling any smoke is bad for the lungs. However, researchers have not been able to determine that the average cannabis smoker has enough exposure to carcinogens to cause cancer.  In 2006, a UCLA study found that even heavy marijuana use could not be linked to lung cancer. “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” said the study’s lead author. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.” This is just one study that suggests cannabis could actually inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours.

4. Using cannabis can give you psychosis.

A popular dig against cannabis is that it can lead to psychosis and could even cause schizophrenia. It’s a concern that’s been circulated as late as 2019. However, Mitch Earleywine, PhD, professor of psychology at University at Albany, SUNY and author of Understanding Marijuana, has said that the basis of the theory is fundamentally flawed. Earleywine believes it’s far more likely that people with schizophrenia tend to be cannabis users, rather than schizophrenia being directly caused by cannabis use. Earleywine reasoned that, “some folks might be drawn to use cannabis in an effort to combat psychotic symptoms.”

5. Cannabis is a “gateway drug.” 

If you’re someone who did eventually move on to harder drugs, then yes, the odds are good that you started your drug journey by smoking pot. However, that doesn’t mean that cannabis is any kind of trigger or “gateway” for moving on to harder drugs. A report by the Institute of Medicine found “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

6. Cannabis is highly addictive. 

It is possible to become dependant on cannabis. However, it’s not especially addicting. 

Research suggests that about nine percent of cannabis users became clinically dependent at some point. By contrast, about 15 percent of cocaine users and 24 percent of heroin users become dependant. And that’s nothing compared to alcohol. According to the CDC, “one in three adults is an excessive drinker, and most of them binge drink, usually on multiple occasions. In contrast, about one in 30 adults is classified as alcohol dependent.” 

7. Cannabis users consume a lot of cannabis.

Perhaps it’s still the prevailing image of the perma-fried pothead consuming our imaginations, but most people still assume that cannabis users are all heavy users. According to an Oxford study, about 40 to 50 percent of people who have used cannabis report a total of fewer than 12 days of use — in their entire lives. Now that could be because cannabis has been illegal for so long, so what about regular users? Roughly a third of cannabis users report having used cannabis for 10 days or less in the past year. Of America’s 30 million users, only about six million use pot on a daily or almost-daily basis.

8. Cannabis is a dangerous drug. 

Can cannabis be dangerous? Sure. Outside of cancer the health risks of smoking cannabis are similar to tobacco. Bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses are a risk factor. Driving while high is also taking your life (and others’ lives) in your hands. However, the same could certainly be said of alcohol. And in fact, many studies (no seriously, many studies) continue to find that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.