The Worst Lies You’ve Ever Been Told About Marijuana

Despite recent advancements on legalization and medicinal usage, marijuana remains a controversial topic among Americans. And while it’s certainly not without its potentially dangerous and harmful side effects, we’ve also learned it’s not entirely bad. In fact, some of its medicinal properties are downright impressive.

Statistically, most Americans support cannabis legalization — there’s only one small demographic that doesn’t. Research is still being done on the effects of using marijuana, but we do know enough to clear up some of the worst lies and myths surrounding it.

The marijuana myths run deep

There are a lot of opposing opinions out there. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Given its complicated history in America, you’ve probably heard some myths about marijuana. One possible explanation ties marijuana to racism and xenophobia. Because the federal ban was passed at a time when racial prejudices ran deep, the theory is plausible. And it doesn’t help that many of our elected officials — especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions — perpetuate some all-out lies regarding cannabis and its users.

Marijuana is not harmless, but there are a lot of lies surrounding it. And these are the worst offenders.

Next: You probably won’t get cancer if you’re a user.

Lie: Marijuana causes cancer

Psychologist talking to her patient

Your doctor can help bust this myth. |

First, the bad news: Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains carcinogens. However, pot smokers (even the hardcore ones) typically consume much less smoke than cigarette smokers. A 2006 UCLA study concluded that even heavy marijuana use does not lead to lung cancer. So, while smoking anything is hard on your lungs, an occasional puff won’t send you to the oncologist.

Next: All drugs are not created equal.

Lie: Marijuana is as dangerous as LSD or heroin

People explore various cannabis paraphernalia

This just isn’t true. | Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images

The Drug Enforcement Administration placed marijuana on a list of controlled substances right alongside the most dangerous drugs, prompting myths that cannabis use is equally as dangerous as the other Schedule 1 drugs. But considering there is not one documented case of someone dying from a marijuana overdose (while legal prescription drugs and alcohol kill thousands of people every year), it’s safe to say this is a lie.

Next: You will not get stoned and rob a bank.

Lie: Marijuana leads to more crime

Female hands rolling a joint

Marijuana’s impact on crime might actually be positive. |

Early evidence from Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis, actually suggests violent crime and property crime rates dropped slightly after legalization. And though that doesn’t necessarily mean the crime rates were lower because of legalized marijuana, it’s safe to say legalizing it doesn’t cause a crime spike.

Next: More teenagers are saying no.

Lie: Youth use rates are on the rise

Teenagers Young Team Together

More teens are choosing to abstain. |

Jeff Sessions has perpetuated this myth. But according to Washington’s 2016 Health Youth Survey, use rates among teens has remained flat, “notwithstanding the legalization of marijuana in 2012.” And between 2014 and 2015, there was a 12% drop in youth rates in Colorado.

Next: Looks like it doesn’t cause brain damage, either.

Lie: Smoking pot kills your brain cells

A woman smokes marijuana in a water pipe

Sorry, it’s not true. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most popular arguments against marijuana is it damages your brain. But research indicates it doesn’t, even heavy use. Studies have shown long-term marijuana users may have a very small impairment in memory and learning. Otherwise, their test scores were similar to non-users.

Next: This is the lie that just won’t die.

Lie: Marijuana is a gateway drug


Are harder drugs in store for marijuana users? | madsci/iStock/Getty Images

A popular misconception that refuses to die is marijuana is a gateway drug — meaning, once you try it, you’ll be curious about other illegal substances. While it’s true that those who use illegal drugs are statistically more likely to use marijuana, correlation is not causation. According to the latest National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, slightly less than half of people over 12 have tried marijuana, while less than 15% have used cocaine and 2% have tried heroin. If marijuana were causing other drug use, the rates for other drugs would likely be higher.

Marijuana is not harmless. But the lies that have been circulating our country for the better part of a century make it seem much worse than it is.

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