Five Myths About Marijuana and You

Myths about marijuana are apparent in college papers, online, and in the media. The users are eager to believe they don’t have a problem, so an entire mythology has grown up around the plant.

But here are the counterarguments.

Myth 1: Marijuana’s potency today is meek and mild

We are far from the “Woodstock marijuana” of 1969.

At the University of Mississippi, the Potency Monitoring Project (PMP) has been underway for the past several decades, measuring the THC concentrations in confiscated marijuana. The trend is clear: the potency of samples has grown from ten percent from before 2002 to forty percent today.

It is true that low-grade marijuana is purchased by the majority of customers, but the average potency in nearly all products has risen (Caulkins et al. 28-29).

This high-potency marijuana is called “turbo marijuana” (Bennett and White 17). To draw comparisons with alcohol, in some marijuana products the difference in potency from past decades to now is like drinking a lite beer versus twelve shots of vodka a day (Sabet 35).

Myth 2: Marijuana is harmless and even good for your otherwise healthy body

As difficult it is to believe, some students say it’s healthy for them. Of course, this belief defies common sense and science. Any chemical- and carcinogen-laden smoke that enters the lungs and goes into the bloodstream is bound to damage the body and tweak the brain.

Currently, the best science has come up with at least twelve health defects.

Users read on pro-marijuana websites that these studies are tainted by Big Business (e.g. Big Pharma) and Big Government. However, why wouldn’t Big Pharma get involved in the manufacture and sales of marijuana if it becomes legal? It seems that their “profit motive” would lead them to sponsor studies that conclude there is nothing wrong with the product, certainly not enough wrong to stop its legalization.

As for Big Government, one conspiracy deserves another: the government should push studies to conclude that marijuana is harmless (when it really isn’t), so the government can keep people stupid and get more taxes and impose more control over them.

And what about Big Marijuana? Don’t legalization advocates have a “profit motive” to deny common sense and challenge science that doesn’t suit them, so they can get more customers and therefore more money?

Instead, let’s follow common sense and science: smoking or eating marijuana is unhealthy.

Myth 3: “Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol

Those were President Obama’s off-the-cuff and unwise words.

But let’s appeal to common sense again. Alcohol is legal and readily available; more people drink it, so the monetary costs to society from drunkenness are higher than those from marijuana, which is not consumed as often because it isn’t (yet) legal. This argues against legalization of marijuana. If we legalize the mythologized plant, were making the same mistake twice.

Further, there is only one reason why someone smokes marijuana: to get high. In contrast, someone can drink an aperitif before dinner or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and not get high. A small amount of dark red wine can even be heart-healthy. In reply, students say I shouldn’t compare a joint with a glass of wine. A half a bottle of wine is closer. They’re right, considering turbo marijuana that is currently being sold.

Nonetheless, getting drunk from a half-bottle of alcohol or high from one joint are symptoms of a deeper problem.

But the difference is clear: alcohol in moderation, particularly wine, which does not get a person inebriated, is not the same as smoking a joint that always gets a user high. And if a marijuana smoker believes that marijuana does not get him high (some students believe this), then why bother inhaling smoke?

Myth 4: Smoking or eating marijuana is a safe “delivery system” for medical purposes

“We will use [medical marijuana] as a red herring to give marijuana a good name”--

Keith Stroup, 1979, head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) (qtd. in Sabet 55)

In no other area of medicine is it allowed or recommended to smoke a plant or eat candy or brownies or whatnot in unstandardized doses for medical purposes. The FDA has never recommended this delivery system. Do we chew on the opium plant to get morphine or the willow bark to get our daily dose of aspirin? Whatever medicine exists in these plants needs to be extracted so the medicine can be controlled (Sabet 57).

The FDA writes in 2013:

… [T]here is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful … [N]o sound scientific studies support[s] medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use. There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana. (updated in 2014)

Rent-a-docs are an open mockery as they prescribe marijuana either by smoking it or eating “edibles.” Accordingly, after warning real doctors to exercise great care in prescribing approved forms of cannabis (i.e. synthetic versions), the American Society of Addiction Medicine writes, “ASAM rejects smoking as a means of drug delivery since it is not safe.”

The American Medical Association recommends placing a warning label on marijuana products that are not approved by the FDA, but are legal by the vote. The label should read: “Marijuana has a high potential for abuse. It has no scientifically proven, currently accepted medical use for preventing or treating any disease process in the United States.”

And so far the only forms approved by the FDA are in pills.

“Rent-a-docs” need to be held liable in a court of law, if something goes wrong with their “patients.”

Myth 5: It’s my body, so I can do what I want with it without bothering anyone else

This is called autonomy: the right to self-rule. In reply, however, private behavior always seeps out into public. No one makes drug consumption choices by himself; he is usually influenced by others. If marijuana is popular or fashionable, then people are drawn to it (Caulkins et al. 121-24).

Substance abuse -- whether strong doses of alcohol or harder drugs or marijuana -- monetarily and personally impacts society and is never an individual matter. By keeping marijuana illegal, if the law can prevent some measure of private self-damage that always leaks out into the public sphere, then it is worth the modest cost.

Let’s wrap this up.

To be blunt but truthful, marijuana legalizers -- Big Marijuana -- have told half-truths and outright lies against common sense and the science that doesn’t suit them, to snare as many customers as they can, so the advocates as a whole can make more money. It’s a commercial enterprise.

One gets the impression that if the science suited them, they would suddenly drop their hyper-skepticism and celebrate the results.

Further, claiming or implying that smoking or eating only marijuana can relieve suffering, the legalizers also manipulate people’s natural compassion on those who suffer with diseases and pain. But here again science does not support their claims. Of course any substance that tweaks the brain is bound to provide some relief, but smoking or eating it is not a wise and safe delivery system.

Therefore, states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical purposes must reverse their course.

And states contemplating doing so must not go down this smoky path.

James Arlandson, Ph.D. (1994), has taught college and university for years. His website is Live as Free People.

Myths about marijuana are apparent in college papers, online, and in the media. The users are eager to believe they don’t have a problem, so an entire mythology has grown up around the plant.

But here are the counterarguments.

Myth 1: Marijuana’s potency today is meek and mild

We are far from the “Woodstock marijuana” of 1969.

At the University of Mississippi, the Potency Monitoring Project (PMP) has been underway for the past several decades, measuring the THC concentrations in confiscated marijuana. The trend is clear: the potency of samples has grown from ten percent from before 2002 to forty percent today.

It is true that low-grade marijuana is purchased by the majority of customers, but the average potency in nearly all products has risen (Caulkins et al. 28-29).

This high-potency marijuana is called “turbo marijuana” (Bennett and White 17). To draw comparisons with alcohol, in some marijuana products the difference in potency from past decades to now is like drinking a lite beer versus twelve shots of vodka a day (Sabet 35).

Myth 2: Marijuana is harmless and even good for your otherwise healthy body

As difficult it is to believe, some students say it’s healthy for them. Of course, this belief defies common sense and science. Any chemical- and carcinogen-laden smoke that enters the lungs and goes into the bloodstream is bound to damage the body and tweak the brain.

Currently, the best science has come up with at least twelve health defects.

Users read on pro-marijuana websites that these studies are tainted by Big Business (e.g. Big Pharma) and Big Government. However, why wouldn’t Big Pharma get involved in the manufacture and sales of marijuana if it becomes legal? It seems that their “profit motive” would lead them to sponsor studies that conclude there is nothing wrong with the product, certainly not enough wrong to stop its legalization.

As for Big Government, one conspiracy deserves another: the government should push studies to conclude that marijuana is harmless (when it really isn’t), so the government can keep people stupid and get more taxes and impose more control over them.

And what about Big Marijuana? Don’t legalization advocates have a “profit motive” to deny common sense and challenge science that doesn’t suit them, so they can get more customers and therefore more money?

Instead, let’s follow common sense and science: smoking or eating marijuana is unhealthy.

Myth 3: “Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol

Those were President Obama’s off-the-cuff and unwise words.

But let’s appeal to common sense again. Alcohol is legal and readily available; more people drink it, so the monetary costs to society from drunkenness are higher than those from marijuana, which is not consumed as often because it isn’t (yet) legal. This argues against legalization of marijuana. If we legalize the mythologized plant, were making the same mistake twice.

Further, there is only one reason why someone smokes marijuana: to get high. In contrast, someone can drink an aperitif before dinner or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and not get high. A small amount of dark red wine can even be heart-healthy. In reply, students say I shouldn’t compare a joint with a glass of wine. A half a bottle of wine is closer. They’re right, considering turbo marijuana that is currently being sold.

Nonetheless, getting drunk from a half-bottle of alcohol or high from one joint are symptoms of a deeper problem.

But the difference is clear: alcohol in moderation, particularly wine, which does not get a person inebriated, is not the same as smoking a joint that always gets a user high. And if a marijuana smoker believes that marijuana does not get him high (some students believe this), then why bother inhaling smoke?

Myth 4: Smoking or eating marijuana is a safe “delivery system” for medical purposes

“We will use [medical marijuana] as a red herring to give marijuana a good name”--

Keith Stroup, 1979, head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) (qtd. in Sabet 55)

In no other area of medicine is it allowed or recommended to smoke a plant or eat candy or brownies or whatnot in unstandardized doses for medical purposes. The FDA has never recommended this delivery system. Do we chew on the opium plant to get morphine or the willow bark to get our daily dose of aspirin? Whatever medicine exists in these plants needs to be extracted so the medicine can be controlled (Sabet 57).

The FDA writes in 2013:

… [T]here is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful … [N]o sound scientific studies support[s] medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use. There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana. (updated in 2014)

Rent-a-docs are an open mockery as they prescribe marijuana either by smoking it or eating “edibles.” Accordingly, after warning real doctors to exercise great care in prescribing approved forms of cannabis (i.e. synthetic versions), the American Society of Addiction Medicine writes, “ASAM rejects smoking as a means of drug delivery since it is not safe.”

The American Medical Association recommends placing a warning label on marijuana products that are not approved by the FDA, but are legal by the vote. The label should read: “Marijuana has a high potential for abuse. It has no scientifically proven, currently accepted medical use for preventing or treating any disease process in the United States.”

And so far the only forms approved by the FDA are in pills.

“Rent-a-docs” need to be held liable in a court of law, if something goes wrong with their “patients.”

Myth 5: It’s my body, so I can do what I want with it without bothering anyone else

This is called autonomy: the right to self-rule. In reply, however, private behavior always seeps out into public. No one makes drug consumption choices by himself; he is usually influenced by others. If marijuana is popular or fashionable, then people are drawn to it (Caulkins et al. 121-24).

Substance abuse -- whether strong doses of alcohol or harder drugs or marijuana -- monetarily and personally impacts society and is never an individual matter. By keeping marijuana illegal, if the law can prevent some measure of private self-damage that always leaks out into the public sphere, then it is worth the modest cost.

Let’s wrap this up.

To be blunt but truthful, marijuana legalizers -- Big Marijuana -- have told half-truths and outright lies against common sense and the science that doesn’t suit them, to snare as many customers as they can, so the advocates as a whole can make more money. It’s a commercial enterprise.

One gets the impression that if the science suited them, they would suddenly drop their hyper-skepticism and celebrate the results.

Further, claiming or implying that smoking or eating only marijuana can relieve suffering, the legalizers also manipulate people’s natural compassion on those who suffer with diseases and pain. But here again science does not support their claims. Of course any substance that tweaks the brain is bound to provide some relief, but smoking or eating it is not a wise and safe delivery system.

Therefore, states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical purposes must reverse their course.

And states contemplating doing so must not go down this smoky path.

James Arlandson, Ph.D. (1994), has taught college and university for years. His website is Live as Free People.