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.
Cannabis Can Induce Insanity
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.
Cannabis Is Over 10 Times More Potent These Days
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.
People Are Sneaking Edibles Into Halloween Candy
Fear mongering around the Halloween season is typical, with concerned parents wary of potential dangers lurking in candy handed out by strangers. The increasing legalization of cannabis nationwide has sparked rumors related to the Halloween season. In states like Oregon and Pennsylvania, officials began issuing warnings about adults handing out cannabis-laced goodies to trick-or-treaters in 2017.
However, there is no evidence this has ever occurred. Not only has such an incident never been reported, cannabis-laced candy would be fairly easy to spot due to the way it's packaged and sold. Criminals would have to hand out individually wrapped gummies or single squares of candy bars if they wanted to drug unsuspecting children. In addition to this, the cost of dosing an entire block of kids would be astronomical due to the high cost of edibles.
Cannabis Is A "Gateway Drug"
The phrase "gateway drug" is frequently used as a rebuttal when legalization proponents argue cannabis is relatively harmless in terms of health risks. The term "gateway drug" indicates exposure to cannabis will eventually lead users to try harder substances. Some longitudinal studies do find pot use increases one's likelihood of eventually abusing other drugs. However, it is unclear if pot itself is the cause as other risk factors may be at play. Not only this, but the vast majority of people who use cannabis never go on to try harder drugs.