Reject the myths, get facts
Contrary to what popular culture and champions of drug legalization say, marijuana is not harmless. The drug’s potency has dramatically increased, making it even more important for people to understand how its use affects public health and safety.
We invite you to contact us with questions about marijuana. We will address common misconceptions about the drug here.
Myth: Marijuana isn’t addictive.
Fact: Marijuana is both physically and psychologically addictive, according to the world’s top medical researchers. Marijuana use is the No. 1 reason why adolescents are admitted to substance-use treatment in the United States and the No. 2 reason (behind alcohol) adults are admitted for substance-use treatment in the U.S. Today’s marijuana is also more addictive than ever. Marijuana sold today is exponentially more potent than marijuana consumed in the 1960s.
This is not the same marijuana as a generation ago. THC levels are substantially and dangerously higher: Graph of data from the University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project (.pdf) shows dramatic increase in percentage of THC in marijuana between 1983 and 2009.
Myth: Marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco.
Fact: First, it’s hard to argue that one substance that wrecks and ruins millions of lives is “safer” than another substance that wrecks and ruins millions of lives. Alcohol and marijuana are not the same. They are consumed and metabolized differently by the body. Most people who use alcohol do so responsibly and without becoming intoxicated, or “drunk,” to the point of mental and physical impairment. However, the primary motivation for people who smoke marijuana recreationally is to “get high” or “stoned.”
Myth: Marijuana isn’t a gateway drug. It doesn’t lead to other drug use.
Fact: At least 10 very large studies involving thousands of children and adolescents and conducted in several countries have shown that kids who use marijuana are 2-3 times more likely to go on to use other substances. While not everyone who uses marijuana will move on to other addictive substances, nearly all users of cocaine, meth and heroin used marijuana first.
Myth: Marijuana only hurts the user.
Fact: Marijuana does, indeed, hurt users- particularly adolescents, who are in stages of brain growth and development that make them especially susceptible to addiction. Marijuana use
also harms users’ family and friends. Consider babies born to women who used during pregnancy and children who are neglected and/or physically abused by drug-using parents. Marijuana use also contributes to crime that harms innocent people. Marijuana use hurts employers, whose companies lose productivity and may be held responsible for problems caused by marijuana-using workers. Marijuana use harms taxpayers, whose resources are diverted to cover costly problems associated with marijuana use.
Myth: We may as well legalize medical marijuana because kids are going to use the drug anyway.
Fact: Children and adolescents nationwide consistently report that marijuana is less available to them than alcohol and cigarettes. Studies have shown repeatedly that the less accessible a substance is, the less likely children and adolescents are to try it. Marijuana is less accessible simply because it’s illegal. There are three main drivers of substance abuse and addiction: accessibility, social acceptability and perceived risk of harm. When accessibility and social acceptability go up and a person’s sense of risk goes down, and that’s when trouble starts.
Myth: Taxing marijuana would provide much-needed revenue.
Fact: There’s no proof this is true. It certainly hasn’t been the case with alcohol and tobacco. Our country spends about $185 billion on alcohol-related problems. Taxes on alcohol sales generate approxi- mately $14.5 billion. That’s only 10% of our costs. Each year, our country spends $200 billion on tobacco-related problems. Taxes on the sale of tobacco products generate $25 billion. That’s only 12% of our costs.