4 Facts and 20 Myths About Cannabis

20 myths about the cannabis plant a 4 facts

There remain loads of myths surrounding cannabis. Image Credit: By Lukas Gojda on Shutterstock

The origins of 4/20, like many of our modern day celebrations, are a bit murky. Urban legends abound, but hard details are scarce. But however it started, it’s now an international event. With more countries around the world moving to legalize cannabis, this humble underground holiday has officially gone global.

Every year on April 20th, cannabis enthusiasts around the globe pay tribute to their favorite plant. This year, celebrants from across America will flock to public events such as the Mile High 4/20 Festival in Colorado, Hippie Hill in California, and the National Cannabis Festival in Washington D.C. As Congress mulls federal legalization, future celebrations could be even bigger.

Despite the fact that cannabis is now legal across much of the United States, misconceptions abound and genuine understanding about it is scarce. More people are using cannabis, but the learning curve remains steep. But whether you’re celebrating 4/20 on a cannabis-themed vacation, in the comfort of your home, or nowhere at all; these facts and myths about cannabis will give you a deeper appreciation of one of the world’s most sought-after plants.

Cannabis Facts:

1. It’s Works as an Anti-Inflammatory
You may have heard about cannabis’ ability to fight inflammation by now. It’s been hailed by the media as the most effective anti-inflammatory on the market. And although their enthusiasm might, in cases, be called excessive, the facts stand for themselves.

Researchers have found in study after study that many of the cannabinoids (chemicals) found in cannabis plants have remarkable anti-inflammatory powers. This is why it is now being used to treat inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and eczema.

2. It’s Not The Same as Hemp
Cannabis and hemp are constantly being mixed up. Throw “marijuana” into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for confusion. The irony is that it’s actually quite simple: both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis sativa plant genus. They’re related and similar, but not the same thing.

Hemp is a highly versatile plant that doesn’t cause a high and has been used for centuries for everything from food to clothing. Marijuana is the name given to the classic cannabis plant we all know — the one that does cause a high and has been restricted under international law for decades, though that could be changing soon.

3. Cannabinoids Mimic Chemicals In The Body
The way that cannabis affects the body is largely thanks to its cannabinoids. These are chemicals which are found in the cannabis plant, and they have such powerful effects because they are almost identical to a set of chemicals produced by the body, called endocannabinoids.

Cannabinoids support the endocannabinoid system in the human body in much the same way as vitamin supplements support the immune system. Because they are so similar to those produced in the body, they are non-toxic and cause relatively few side effects.

4. It Prevents Fine Lines And Wrinkles
In a world that’s becoming increasingly obsessed with slowing the sands of time, some of the most exciting (or at least lucrative) strides made in cannabis research are those relating to its power as an antioxidant. Antioxidants fight off free radicals, which studies have shown to be the root cause of fine lines and wrinkles — and researchers think that cannabis might be one of the best.

Up until now, vitamins C and E have been widely used in anti-aging skin care products, but studies suggest that cannabis derivatives (namely CBD) could be even more effective.

Cannabis Myths:

It Kills Your Brain Cells
We all remember growing up and hearing about how cannabis will kill our brain cells, right? This is probably the most widely held misconception about the plant, even today. The study that is cited to back up this theory has been widely discredited by the scientific community and was never replicated. Since then, newer research suggests that cannabis could boost certain kinds of brain activity, such as creative thinking.

It Causes Schizophrenia
Understandably, the risk of developing schizophrenia is a major deterrent of cannabis use to many people. And while there are some studies that show that cannabis can increase this risk, that’s not the full picture. In fact, studies have shown that a single dose of CBD could actually reduce the symptoms of psychosis.

Researchers are finding that cannabis only poses a risk of inducing negative effects when used by people who are already predisposed to them — that is, if they possess a schizophrenia gene, cannabis might trigger it. If they’re right, only people who have this genetic predisposition are likely to experience that side effect.

Smoking Cannabis Is Safer Than Cigarettes
According to the American Lung Association, smoking cannabis is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The act of smoking itself causes severe damage to the lungs and respiratory tract. Whether it’s cannabis or tobacco fumes you’re inhaling, this fact remains true. The presence of toxins and carcinogens isn’t solely exclusive to cigarette smoking, either.

It Cures Cancer
The media have been scurrilous in their clickbait cannabis content over the past couple of years, making all sorts of claims that cannabis can cure anything — including cancer. This kind of misinformation is a real problem, especially when it comes to medicinal cannabis.

It’s true that some trials have shown cannabis to slow the growth of some tumors and cancer cells. However, there’s still nowhere near enough evidence to make credible claims that cannabis is a cure for cancer. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon just yet.

Legalization Leads To A Massive Jump In Use
Those in the “no” camp argue that legalization will cause a huge increase in the number of people using cannabis, but research hasn’t found this to be true.

In fact, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, “In the majority of states that have approved medical marijuana, use among teenagers has actually decreased.” Campaigners and policy-makers explain this unexpected phenomenon as a diminished “forbidden fruit effect,” and say that it could help to address drug abuse and crime among young people in disadvantaged areas.

It Stops You From Getting Pregnant
There is a belief that cannabis causes infertility, but this hasn’t been proven through any scientific method. Some studies have linked cannabis use to a decline in male fertility, but others suggest that it could increase female fertility through the endocannabinoid system. The bottom line is scientists aren’t sure and it’s definitely not as clear cut as many people think.

All Edibles Make You High
As cannabis edibles become more readily available, lots of folks are nervous that the slightest bite could make them high as a kite. And while it’s true that some edibles can cause psychoactive effects, it’s unlikely that a modest morsel will have such a huge impact — primarily because not all edibles contain THC.

However, even edibles that do contain THC will affect various people in various ways. Depending on the dosage used in the edible itself, whether or not you’re eating it on an empty stomach, how soon you eat after having the edible, and a number of other factors, the same edible could affect two people in very different ways.

It Stops Epileptic Seizures
Another common cannabis news story is that of cannabis being used to cure epilepsy. These often center around young children and pull on the heart strings of even the biggest critic. However, so far clinical trials have only shown cannabis to be effective for treating two rare forms of epilepsy: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

It’s hoped that further study will find new ways that the drug can help patients with other forms of the disease, but for now its government-approved uses are limited.

Cannabis Is Legal in the Netherlands
Amsterdam has long been known as the cannabis capital of the world. This is because before the drug was legal anywhere else, it was legal in the Dutch city. But in a weird twist of bizzare legislative loopholes, the drug isn’t legal in the rest of the country. We’re not kidding — Amsterdam is the only place in the Netherlands where smoking cannabis is legal, although as of 2017 professional cultivation is legal.

Dispensaries Will Harm The Bar Industry
Members of the bar industry are concerned that the legalization of cannabis and proliferation of cannabis cafes will have a detrimental effect on their businesses. However, there’s no evidence to give rise to their fears.

In cities where cannabis is legal, reports indicate that this influx of tourism is benefiting bars, restaurants, and hotels alike. The added foot traffic and the option of attracting barflies with cannabis infused products present a great opportunity to any bar owners who are up to the challenge.

It Causes Laziness
One of the longest standing stereotypes about cannabis users is that the drug makes them lazy and kills motivation. However, new research shows it actually helps some ADHD patients focus and carry out tasks to completion.

Addiction psychiatrist Larissa Mooney of UCLA thinks that the drug affects different people in different ways. She says, “During intoxication, somebody might have more energy or more euphoria.” Can cannabis cause laziness? Sure, sometimes. But it looks like sometimes it could have the opposite effect too.

Smoking Cannabis Leads To Depression
The connection between cannabis use and mental health is anything but clear, although some people would lead you to believe that it’s perfectly black and white. Studies have shown a distinct connection between long term cannabis use and depression. But other studies show it to be an effective treatment for the same.

More research is definitely needed in this area, but for now the statement that cannabis leads to depression isn’t strictly true.

It Makes You a Better Driver
It might seem like a joke, but it’s no laughing matter that some people really do think that driving while high is perfectly safe.

It absolutely isn’t.

While the link between cannabis and driving accidents is a bit blurry at the moment, one thing that’s certain is that it doesn’t make you a better driver. Studies have explored the effects of cannabis use on reflexes and perceptual skills, and found that the drug slowed reactions and delayed response times behind the wheel.

The Munchies Aren’t A Real Thing
We’ve all heard tales about how after using cannabis a friend or family member experienced a sudden urge for Cheetos and Mountain Dew. And while this might seem like nothing more than a silly stereotype, science backs it up.

Researchers have discovered that some of the chemicals in cannabis trigger the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate your appetite. It seems that cannabis can cause it to suddenly become overactive, triggering an urge to snack. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as some scientists think it could make cannabis a potential treatment for people with eating disorders.

It’s Not Addictive
Supporters of the legal cannabis movement often make claims that cannabis isn’t addictive. And in a sense, it’s not — at least not in the same way that substances like heroin or cocaine are addictive. However, it’s not that simple.

Scientists have studied the link between legal cannabis and rates of addiction, and their findings are complicated. According to one study, more than four million Americans exhibit signs of “cannabis use disorders,” though what this actually means is the subject of much contention. For the time being, though, it’s safe to safe that cannabis isn’t quite as risk-free as it’s often portrayed.

Synthetic Cannabinoids Are Safer
Synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice are created in a lab, instead of being extracted from cannabis plants. They’re becoming more common as the demand for cannabis-infused products grows. But although many people are under the impression that these cannabinoids are safer than natural ones, the opposite is true.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic cannabinoids “are not safe and may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening.”

It’s Easy to Cheat a Drug Test
Sure, it’s easy to cheat on a drug test — but doing it successfully is another story. Most of the “miracle cleansers” advertised prey on people’s panic and lack of understanding about how drug tests actually work. Hair follicle tests are nearly impossible to beat, while saliva tests are also regrettably accurate (though their detection times are much shorter). Urine tests, which are the most common, offer a bit more wiggle room, but it’s still not as simple as chugging a few liters of water or scarfing a handful of herbs.

Cannabis Kills
One of the biggest fears relating to cannabis use is a fatal overdose, but there is still no reported cannabis fatalities in America or globally. Technically, anything larger than the recommended dosage is an overdose but the number of patients who have visited emergency rooms with life threatening overdoses remains zero.

Medical Cannabis Cures ________
As is the case with all health and wellness trends, it’s important to take everything you read/hear/see in the media regarding cannabis with a fistful of salt. “Scientists discover cannabis reverses Alzheimer’s” might make a great headline, but not only is this misleading and manipulative, it’s also just not true. However, we live in an economy of clicks, so these types of stories aren’t likely to stop any time soon.

It’s A Gateway Drug
One of the biggest arguments made by cannabis critics is that it acts as a gateway drug, meaning it often leads to the use of more dangerous substances. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says otherwise.

According to their official government website, “People who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana [however] the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.”

Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell is a health, wellness, and lifestyle writer based in Ireland whose work has appeared in The Irish Times and The Independent, among others. In 2017, she founded the lifestyle brand “Self Love and Sarah” to promote healthy self image and body positivity for women.

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