A dozen nicknames paired with the miserable lack of education about cannabis has allowed several myths to surround the world's favorite weed for decades. Opponents of marijuana still cling to some "reefer madness" scare stories as arguments against any benefits cannabis shows, but as science moves forward these myths are being debunked one by one. Research into the various properties and effects of cannabis is still very much warranted, but here we touch on three marijuana myths that continue to masquerade as widespread truths and need to be put to rest.
1. Cannabis is a Gateway Drug
The idea that even though marijuana itself may not be a dangerous substance but that it leads to cannabis users trying harder drugs is touted by many to this day without any evidence. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine looked into the subject and found "no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs," and it noted that “drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana.” If cannabis were to regain its legal status at the federal level it would be as much of a gateway drug as ibuprofen, alcohol, or nicotine.
2. Cannabis Use Increases Violent Crimes
Unlike heroin, cocaine, or even alcohol, cannabis does not -- as Attorney General Jeff Sessions insists -- induce or aggregate violent behavior by itself once consumed; the violence that surrounds it plays out in the “black market” on the streets as groups vie for plants, profits, and territory outside the bounds of our current legal system. In a 2003 edition of the journal Addictive Behaviors, a Canadian reported findings that “cannabis administration tends to foster submissive behaviors and suppress attack behaviors,” and that it “reduces likelihood of violence during intoxication.” In fact, researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas reported in 2014 that states that had passed medical marijuana legalization laws “experienced reductions in crime...such as homicide, robbery, and aggravated assault.”
3. Legal Cannabis Leads to Higher Use Rates in Youths
Some continue to argue that making cannabis legal will make it easier for young people to get access to and use, but the facts don't support this claim. The 2016 results of Monitoring the Future (an ongoing long-term study of substance use among American adolescents conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan) found that the ability to get cannabis among the study's youngest participants was declining and that in regards to use, the “annual prevalence of marijuana showed a significant decline of 1.1 percentage points in 2016.”