The changes brought by the cannabis revolution have delivered many things so far: safe, clean and legal weed—at least for those of us lucky enough to live in states where it’s decriminalized—and growing curiosity about the potential of this very ancient plant medicine.
One thing cannabis reform hasn’t entirely brought about yet is freedom from backwards-thinking (and just plain harmful) marijuana myths. (Though we’re hopefully past the era when curious teens were told marijuana would render them impotent, among other stories.)
While the marijuana myths will likely continue to fly for the time being, here are five popular marijuana myths we can assure you aren’t true.
1. All Marijuana Is the Same
But these days, it’s possible to be much more specific. There are hundreds of chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, each of which varies in proportion to the others and imparts distinct qualities and characteristics. At this stage, it’s safer to say that no two cannabis plants can be the same, though we’re much better at predicting their properties.
2. Marijuana Causes Brain Damage
Nope. Though the research is still in its infancy, it’s understood that in may regards, cannabis is neuroprotective, aiding neural activity rather than hindering or damaging it (as opposed to alcohol, a neurotoxin). That said, indulging too much tends to adversely affect short-term memory and spatial awareness, which at worst can make you feel as though you’re brain damaged.
3. Marijuana Is Addictive and a “Gateway Drug”
This marijuana myth is a more subtle one. Cannabis in and of itself is not addictive, but roughly 10% of habitual users develop what’s known as a cannabis use disorder. As with any medicine or recreational substance, it’s important to make it part of a balanced and engaged lifestyle, not the leading factor in that lifestyle.
The second half is simpler: cannabis is not a “gateway drug,” as opponents have claimed for decades. If anything, cannabis has been shown to be highly effective at helping addicts get off more dangerous drugs than the other way around.
4. Marijuana Is Worse than Tobacco for Your Lungs
First off, no. Though it contains some of the same chemical compounds, cannabis smoke is objectively less harmful than tobacco smoke. Furthermore, these days, much cannabis isn’t even “smoked;” it’s often vaporized or taken in such novel forms as tinctures and beverages.
5. Marijuana Has No Medicinal Value
A big, fat “WRONG!” Besides relatively easy-to-establish curative relationships—chronic pain and insomnia being among the most visible—research is demonstrating that cannabis is effective at treating epilepsy, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, to name a few conditions. And it’s a fair bet that the next few years of research are going to uncover a host of other conditions treatable by cannabis. Ironically, as cannabis has been cultivated for many thousands of years, we’re not learning about cannabis so much as relearning what we knew and forgot. (That’s the opposite of cannabis-induced short-term memory loss, by the way.)
And there you have it, five marijuana myths that we can chalk up as effectively DEBUNKED.