Even after about a century of scientific study, there is plenty we don’t know about marijuana. We don’t know how different cannabis compounds behave inside the human body, and we don’t know much about the long-term effects of heavy use of the drug. Most importantly, we don’t know all the medical applications of cannabis, and plenty of initial study suggests that marijuana could have dozens of beneficial health effects.
However, that doesn’t mean that marijuana is a complete mystery. In fact, we know enough about marijuana use to dispel a number of myths that have long been proliferated by anti-weed propagandists for decades. If you still believe any of the following misinformation about cannabis, it is high time that you learn the truth.
Marijuana Makes Users More Violent
The original “Reefer Madness” showcases the violent urges once thought to develop upon using cannabis: sexual and physical assault, murder and more. In fact, many of the anti-cannabis laws first passed in the United States were pushed through thanks to the widespread understanding that the drug inspired violent reactions in users.
Yet, the oldest marijuana myth is also the first to have been disproven. As early as 1944, the La Guardia Report found that marijuana use does not induce violence or insanity as previously thought; in fact, the report suggested that cannabis is potentially safer than other drugs because it is less likely to lead to addiction or escalate to more dangerous drugs. Since then, several studies have confirmed these findings to the extent that believing marijuana causes violence is incredibly outdated.
Marijuana Use Leads to Crime and Delinquency
Even if marijuana doesn’t inspire violent behavior, some believe that using the drug might increase one’s predilection toward committing crime. Indeed, weed can lower a user’s inhibitions, which can encourage users to do things they might normally avoid.
However, typically, the association between crime and marijuana use is one of correlation, not causation. Because marijuana was illegal for so long, cannabis users were, by legal definition, criminals. Marijuana sale and possession did increase crime because those activities in and of themselves were crimes. Plus, to keep the illegal drug trade away from authorities, traffickers often participated in other illegal actions.
Most states that develop accessible, legal marijuana programs see a marked decrease in cannabis-related crime. The sooner conservative states like Arkansas legalize marijuana, the less crime will be associated with this simple, safe substance.
Marijuana Use Results in Gain Weight
One of the most well-known effects of using weed is the notorious “munchies,” or the overwhelming increase in appetite which can drive stoners to overindulge in junk foods. This effect, paired with a seeming lack of motivation and motor skills, has led to a myth that stoners are unhealthy and overweight as a group.
Indeed, marijuana use can result in some people gaining weight — but it is almost exclusively people who desperately need the extra pounds. Beginning in the 1970s, doctors and nurses began encouraging cancer patients, AIDS sufferers and even those with eating disorders to use weed for weight gain. However, a study of healthy marijuana users found that over a period of three years, those regularly partaking of cannabis gained less weight than the control group, which abstained from weed.
Marijuana Use Kills Brain Cells
Back when performing scientific research on primates was all the rage, Dr. Robert Heath published a study which seemed to demonstrate significant brain damage in monkeys heavily dosed with cannabis. A few other animal experiments seem to point to the same effect: Cannabis kills the brain.
Unfortunately, none of these results have been replicated, let alone in human subjects. Larger monkey studies found no such evidence of brain damage as a result of marijuana use, and repeated animal studies cannot even point to structural changes or abnormalities in the brain after heavy cannabis consumption.
Interestingly, this is not the case with alcohol consumption. Alcohol is converted into acid inside the liver, and that acid causes cell damage around the body — especially to dendrites, or nerve cells, in the brain. In contrast, modern research has found good evidence that certain cannabinoid compounds protect nerves from damage. Thus, transitioning to weed use instead of alcohol use might be a good way to keep the brain safe.
There are too many marijuana myths to tackle in one sitting, but the more you learn about this precious plant, the more you will come to appreciate it.