Compiled by Christopher Cano, MPA, Executive Director of Central Florida NORML - Mar 2015

Myth: Cannabis is a Dangerous Drug
Fact: Cannabis is just a Flower and one of the most beneficial herbs known to Mankind

Any discussion about cannabis has to begin with science and not propaganda. According to the USDA, cannabis is listed as weed indigenous to Central and South Asia [1]. Some studies even suggest that the active ingredients in the plant, know as phyto-cannabinoids, have anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidant, and neuro-protective properties (see "Emerging Clincial Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids" by NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano).

Myth: Smoking Cannabis is more dangerous than Cigarettes
Fact: Smoking Cannabis does not cause lung cancer

Research conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA surveyed over 1,200 patients with lung, oral, and respiratory tract cancers, with his team finding no relation between marijuana smoking and cancer. The study even found a reduced risk of lung cancer among short term users. {2} In another study, Harvard researchers found that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, inhibited the growth of lung cancer tumors in laboratory test by blocking a growth factor known to promotes small-cell lung cancers.{3}

Myth: Consuming too much marijuana will lead to overdose and death
Fact: It is impossible to overdose on marijuana

The National Cancer Institute has shown that because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur. {4}

Myth: Marijuana Kills Brain Cells
Fact: Cannabis is a neuro-protectant

In 1974, Dr. Robert Heath of Tulane University conducted research utilizing Rhesus Monkeys. He gave them 2700 joints in 90 days and upon death cut open their craniums to find dead brain cells. What was not made public for many years, after the extensive propaganda and Just Say No Campaigns, is that he gave them the equivalent of 63 joints in 5 minutes using a gas mask and no oxygen. The brain damage was not caused by cannabis smoking, but by the fact the monkeys were suffocated to death. Recent studies by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America show that Cannabidiol and THC prevent hydroperoxide-induced oxidative damage as well as or better than other antioxidants in a chemical (Fenton reaction) system and neuronal cultures. [5]

Myth: Marijuana use in Teens causes lower IQ
Fact: Marijuana use does not affect IQ

As part of the propaganda of the Just Say No movement, we have heard time and time again that kids who smoke marijuana are slower academically and delayed developmentally, that they have lower IQ's. Recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology show that Marijuana users were high functioning, demonstrating comparable IQs to controls and relatively better processing speed. [6]

Myth: Marijuana Legalization Leads to Increased Teen Use
Fact: Legalization has led to a drop in Teen Use

Opponents to legalization often use the moral argument, what about the kids? The facts of legalization support that well regulated legal marijuana systems can actually reduce access to teens by taking out black market contributors [7] and lead to drops in teen use.[8]

Myth: Marijuana Use Leads to Birth Defects
Fact: Marijuana has medicinal benefits during pregnancy

While experts generally recommend against any drug use during pregnancy, marijuana has little evidence implicating it in fetal harm, unlike alcohol, cocaine or tobacco. Epidemiological studies have found no evident link between prenatal use of marijuana and birth defects in humans. [9] A recent study by Dr. Susan Astley at the University of Washington refuted an earlier work suggesting that cannabis might cause fetal alcohol syndrome. [10] More recently, a well-controlled study found that cannabis use had a positive impact on birthweight during the third trimester of pregnancy with no adverse behavioral consequences. [11] Another study of Jamaican women who had smoked pot throughout pregnancy found that their babies registered higher on developmental scores at the age of 30 days, while experiencing no significant effects on birthweight or length. [12] While cannabis use is not recommended in pregnancy, it may be of medical value to some women in treating morning sickness or easing childbirth.

References:
1. US Department of Agriculture, https://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?8862
2. M. Hashibe et al, "Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancers: Results of a opulation-Based Case-Control Study " Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev 15.10: 1829-34 (2006).
3. A Preet et al., "Delta-9 THC inhibits epithelial growth factor-induced lung cancer cell migration in vitro as well as its growth and metastasis in vivo" Oncogene 27: 339-46 (2008).
4. National Cancer Institute , https://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page6
5. A.J. Hampson et al., "Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants", https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC20965/
6. M. Luciana et al., " Neurocognition in college-aged daily marijuana users", https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13803395.2014.893996#abstract
7. O'Hara, "Legal Pot in US Is Crippling Mexican Cartels, https://news.vice.com/article/legal-pot-in-the-us-is-crippling-mexican-cartels
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)",
https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Results.aspx?TT=L&OUT=0&SID=HS&QID=H49&LID=CO&YID=YY&LID2=&YID2=&COL=S&ROW1=N&ROW2=N&HT=QQ&LCT=LL&FS=S1&FR=R1&FG=G1&FSL=S1&FRL=R1&FGL=G1&PV=&TST=True&C1=2009&C2=2011&QP=G&DP=1&VA=CI&CS=Y&SYID=2005&EYID=2011&SC=DEFAULT&SO=ASC
9. J.E. Joy et al., "Marijuana and Medicine" pp.124, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/6376.htm
10. Dr. Susan Astley, "Analysis of Facial Shape in Children Gestationally Exposed to Marijuana, Alcohol, and/or Cocaine," Pediatrics 89#1: 67-77 ( June 1992).
11. Nancy Day et al., "Prenatal Marijuana Use and Neonatal Outcome," Neurotoxicology and Teratology 13: 329-34 (1992).
12. Janice Hayes, Melanie Dreher and J. Kevin Nugent, "Newborn Outcomes With Maternal Marihuana Use in Jamaican Women," Pediatric Nursing 14 #2: 107-10 (Mar-Apr. 1988).