Cannabis is one of the most popular drugs around the world, both for medicinal and recreational use. However, it also happens to be illegal in most of the countries. Over the years it has become demonised. The laws and restrictions on cannabis possession and dealing often carry very severe penalties; leading much of the population to consider it harmful like other man-made drugs sold on the streets. But here is the thing – the Cannabis plant is not a chemically enhanced drug, it is a naturally growing plant rich in complementary botanical activity. In some cultures it has been used freely for centuries in the use of homeopathic medicine and as an aid to meditation without causing any negative impact.
The stigma around Cannabis has undoubtedly been fuelled over the years; here are a few myths uncovered and explained.
Cannabis, Marijuana and Hemp – all the same
Cannabis is the scientific name for its plant and comes in many different forms of genus. It comprises of 3 main strains: Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis.
Marijuana is merely a nickname for Cannabis, derived from the Mexican word marihuana. When prohibition came about in the US people needed to create their own discreet names for the drug, hence the terms weed; grass; pot which are all colloquial derivatives of the same thing.
Whether the plant is referred to as Cannabis or Marijuana it is the same thing, no physical differences. However, the term Cannabis is more often used to describe the plant in its entirety and would be considered the more formal terminology. Marijuana is generally the term given to the dried flowers from the plant, it is in this way we can perhaps distinguish a difference in the meaning of the words.
Hemp on the other hand, although still the same plant as Cannabis or Marijuana, is different in its biological structure. Hemp has been specifically cultivated to contain no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabidiol or THC which is the psychoactive ingredient found in the Cannabis plant. In comparison you can expect to find 5-20% THC in naturally growing Cannabis.
Cannabis causes lack of motivation:
Low levels of dopamine are connected to lacking ambition and motivation at a neuronal level. Researchers have determined that long-term users of cannabis, specifically those that began at an early age (12-18yrs) are more prone to these kind of low levels. This demographic is said to produce less dopamine than the average person who doesn’t engage in Cannabis use.
However, it is important to realise that not all Cannabis is the same. There are dozens of cannabinoids and terpenes present in Cannabis and they each have a different effect or stimuli. Therefore the quantities or different strains consumed will affect a person accordingly. Some strains will have a negative effect on motivation while others a positive
Sativa is said to provide increased levels in productivity and creativity, focussing and uplifting the mind. Indica is more likely to have the opposite effect, creating muscle relaxation and a blissful mind.
Cannabis – gateway drug:
It is one of the most common myths that Cannabis is a gateway for the potential use of hard drugs in the future. Although research shows that heavy usage of Cannabis from an early age can certainly cause levels of dopamine to diminish and risk leading to progression onto more harmful substances, this has been proven to only occur in a minority of cases. It is important to take into account other factors such as social environment which plays a critical part in a person’s risk for drug use.
The fact remains that the majority of pot smokers do not go on to experiment with ‘harder’ drugs.
Symptoms of a (nonlethal) weed overdose include anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, and loss of coordination. But, it is impossible to consume a lethal overdose of weed. In a 1988 petition, a judge wrote that in order to die, a person would need to consume approximately 6804 kg of marijuana in about 15 minutes. A physical impossibility.
Marijuana makes you fat
The term ‘having the munchies’ when you smoke weed has a real scientific basis.
The brain produces its own cannabinoids that help control our appetite, mood, memory and pain receptors. THC produced in marijuana latches on to these cannabinoid receptors in the brain mimicking the same chemicals. THC flips a switch in the brain and fools you into believing that you are hungry. This increase in appetite is a benefit to someone who is struggling with loss of appetite as a symptom of illness etc These people often self medicate with Cannabis in order to gain some weight.
At the same time the CBD cannabidiol present in marijuana is known to speed up metabolism. So it is highly unlikely that cannabis smokers will ever become fat from the weed itself.
The reddening of eyes is dangerous
Reddening of the eye is a common sight once you are high. But the reason of reddening is the presence of THC in cannabis. It decreases blood pressure, dilation of blood vessels and capillaries. For eyes, in particular, it causes dilation in the ocular capillaries encouraging blood flow through the eyes and thus causing the red-eye. THC becomes a good medicine for glaucoma patients. Although it doesn’t give a full recovery, it helps them live with the symptoms without the threat of losing their sight. Guess it is not that harmful after all!
Kills brain cells resulting to memory loss:
Weed doesn’t affect your long-term memory or cause diseases that deteriorate the memory such as dementia. However the THC constituent in Cannabis can temporarily affect the short term memory in two significant ways. When a person is intoxicated with THC they can experience difficulty in encoding memories. As opposed to the blackouts some experience with alcohol, it is more difficult to actually form new memories while you are high on weed.
Recalling events can also be very tricky while intoxicated with Cannabis. This difficulty wears off with the high but during a session recall can pose a real challenge.
Synthetic marijuana is safe
Synthetic marijuana also known as spice, K2, and fake weed can be 100 times stronger than natural marijuana, and it is not manufactured safely. Synthetic marijuana has proven to cause hallucinations, stroke, vomiting, acute psychosis, even death—it is not at all safe and recommended. Yasmin Hurd, who is a professor of neuroscience, psychiatry, and pharmacology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says, “It’s powerful much more powerful than natural marijuana. “It can induce psychosis because a lot of strains don’t contain CBD, which decreases the anxiety from THC ”.
Marijuana affects lungs
When smoking cannabis without mixing with tobacco the user is certainly not inhaling the many harmful toxins found in cigarettes. The chemicals known to cause cancer and emphysema are not present in marijuana and inhaling it is said to have far less damage on the bronchial tubes than regular cigarette smoking. With the introduction of dry herb vaporizers consuming Cannabis has become even safer to our health as the rate of combustion is zero and it is burning the matter that releases the harmful chemicals.
Marijuana causes hormonal changes:
Only 9% of those who use marijuana end up being clinically dependent on it. Studies depict marijuana use has dozens of medical benefits. It prevents cancer from spreading, reduces anxiety, slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, also improves metabolism and it does spur creativity in our brain and not hormonal imbalance.
Prohibition will curb abuse
Over the years prohibition has failed to prevent the domestic production of marijuana. Instead, it has increased the activities in the illegal market for Cannabis. The rate with which the black market has expanded is astonishing and is only increasing. Moreover, these days, its consumption is even more widespread amongst the youth. So it is fair to say that prohibition has failed to curb the ‘abuse’.
Marijuana is addictive
Although in some cases people will develop a problem of use with Cannabis dependence upon the drug occurs only in a small minority and usually when the user began at a young age. People who begin using Cannabis before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a disorder and experience withdrawal symptoms than adults.
Withdrawal effects of cannabis use are not a threat to life and mainly comprise of mood swings and sleep difficulties.
The majority of people who consume sensible amounts of Cannabis whether for recreation or medical use, will never struggle with addiction to it. However, it must be emphasised that excessively large amounts of marijuana consumption as with any other drug will probably have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental or physical health in some way.
Marijuana is the same as alcohol
It is important to consider how both things may affect your brain, heart, behaviour and addiction. Even though one is legal in most parts of the world and the other is not, the science is very clear in its determination that Cannabis is far less detrimental to our health than alcohol.
While alcohol causes thousands and thousands of deaths every year; both from disease caused by alcohol and alcohol related deaths such as physical abuse and drink drive road accidents, no deaths are reported from the use of marijuana.
Marijuana will mislead people and it will lead to exploitation
Legalization in Colorado has created 10,000 new jobs in the area. Although supervision by laws and bodies are required so that it doesn’t lead to exploitation and abuse. Taxing marijuana will increase the government’s revenue. In an open letter to US President George Bush, Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, called for marijuana to be “legal but taxed and regulated like other goods”.
Marijuana is poor man’s drug
Legalizing it will help the locals in many states where growing Cannabis plants is the only source of income. However, the banning leads the farmers to sell it at a very cheap price to the drug dealers and they face additional pressure from the police, who are paid to destroy the cannabis plantations. Legalizing marijuana will end this ‘war on drugs’ targeting old and needy.
A lot of myths and uncovered facts about Cannabis are still going around, and it will take time for people to understand the Cannabis culture beyond myths. However, it is expected with the current rate that Cannabis culture will only grow in the future.
Author Bio –
Jessica has been closely studying the cannabis industry trends from quite some time. Intrigued by the booming growth of this sector, she takes an interest in penning down her views providing quality insight on current marijuana trends, particularly medical cannabis.