Cannabis is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs nationwide, with some polls indicating over 50% of Americans have tried pot at least once. Despite its relatively common use, there are a variety of terrifying marijuana myths out there that would make most people second guess indulging. Like many misconceptions about drugs, these urban legends often date back to misinformation distributed during the early days of the War on Drugs that led to widespread moral panic. While no drug is risk free, and educating yourself about the dangers of any substance is important, the stories below wander far outside the realm of documented facts.
There are some cannabis myths that have been around for decades, such as allegations of reefer madness and the notion marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to harder narcotics. There are also some new myths, born from the days of legalization, such as notions of weed-laced Halloween candy and people trading food stamps for pot brownies.
If you're interested to learn more, browse this list and vote up the urban legends you find the most believable.
A common misconception about cannabis in the current marketplace is that it's grown more potent since the 1960s. People believe that cannabis tends to be markedly stronger today, with some government officials even stating the drug is over 10 times stronger than it used to be. While there have been some studies that indicate cannabis may be getting stronger, the data remains unclear and the methodology is questionable due to the unreliable nature of record keeping.
First, police didn't begin testing the potency of pot until 1972, so claims related to the '60s have no data to back them up. Second, there's no real reliable way to determine whether potency is trending upwards. While some studies indicate a slight increase in potency over time, this could potentially be related to larger sample sizes. For example, researchers analyzed about 18 seizures a year in 1970, but in 2000 there were 1,000 seizures available for study.
Due to cannabis's increasing legality across the United States, there are likely stronger strains more widely available. However, this does not mean cannabis as a whole is increasing in potency and many strains are likely no stronger than they were in the 1960s.
In January 2014, an outlet called the National Report published a story claiming a Colorado store was allowing patrons to buy cannabis brownies with food stamps. The report quickly spurred outrage online and was widely shared and read. However, National Report is actually a satirical website, similar to The Onion, and the article was entirely fictional in nature.
This did not stop the rumor from gaining traction, with many still believing it to be fact long after it was debunked. It even got to the point a Republican lawmaker proposed a bill explicitly prohibiting people from using food stamps to purchase foods laced with cannabis.
Back in the 1930s, a movement hit the streets to ban cannabis in the United States. Spearheaded by the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry J. Anslinger, anti-pot rhetoric throughout the era often alleged the drug could induce insanity. Anslinger was a huge proponent of this theory, and claimed cannabis caused "insanity, criminality, and death" and his agency once stated, "You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother." There were often racist undertones in Anslinger's claims, with him labeling African American and Mexican citizens as the most notorious pot smokers. There was even a propaganda film made dubbed Reefer Madness.
However, Anslinger was also the man who once said, "I've made up my mind, don't try to confuse me with the facts." There is very little reputable evidence to back up claims that cannabis can flat out induce violent insanity. There is some evidence that cabbabis use can contribute to the onset of schizophrenia, but this is only in individuals with other risk factors and whether correlation equals causation in terms of the pot/schizophrenia equation is unclear. Not to mention, cannabis is not typically linked to an increase in violence. In fact, some studies have found violent crime rates actually dropped in cities after they partially legalized cannabis.
For years, people advocating for the decriminalization of cannabis point to the "fact" that the founding father of the United States, George Washington himself, smoked weed from time to time. The myth often extends to Thomas Jefferson as well, but there is no evidence to support this claim.
The myth likely formed as a result of the fact that Washington and Jefferson both attempted to grow hemp on their farms. When it comes to botanical terms, hemp and pot are both part of the same family, but hemp is cultivated and used for entirely different purposes than pot. Washington didn't grow hemp to smoke it. He grew it because of its use in the manufacturing of rope, clothing for his slaves, and other commercial products. Jefferson used hemp primarily in operations at his farm, inventing something he called a "hemp brake" to separate fibers and stalks.