Subject: MARIJUANA MYTHS
MARIJUANA MYTHS - Pt.1
by Paul Hager
Hoosier Cannabis Relegalization Coalition
1. Marijuana causes brain damage
The most celebrated study that claims to show brain damage is the rhesus
monkey study of Dr. Robert Heath, done in the late 1970s. This study was
reviewed by a distinguished panel of scientists sponsored by the Institute
of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Their results were
published under the title, Marijuana and Health in 1982. Heath's work was
sharply criticized for its insufficient sample size (only four monkeys), its
failure to control experimental bias, and the misidentification of normal
monkey brain structure as "damaged". Actual studies of human populations of
marijuana users have shown no evidence of brain damage. For example, two
studies from 1977, published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA) showed no evidence of brain damage in heavy users of
marijuana. That same year, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially
came out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. That's not the sort of thing
you'd expect if the AMA thought marijuana damaged the brain.
2. Marijuana damages the reproductive system
This claim is based chiefly on the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who
experimented with tissue (cells) isolated in petri dishes, and with
researchers who dosed animals with near-lethal amounts of cannabinoids
(i.e., the intoxicating part of marijuana). Nahas' generalizations from his
petri dishes to human beings have been rejected by the scientific community
as being invalid. In the case of the animal experiments, the animals that
survived their ordeal returned to normal within 30 days of the end of the
experiment. Studies of actual human populations have failed to demonstrate
that marijuana adversely affects the reproductive system.
3. Marijuana is a "gateway" drug -- it leads to hard drugs
This is one of the more persistent myths. A real world example of what
happens when marijuana is readily available can be found in Holland. The
Dutch functionally decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s. Since then, hard
drug use -- heroin and cocaine -- have DECLINED substantially. Even use of
marijuana has declined. If marijuana really were a gateway drug, one would
have expected use of hard drugs to have gone up. Actual studies of hard drug
"addicts" reveal that they start with alcohol or tobacco more frequently
4. Marijuana suppresses the immune system
Like the studies claiming to show damage to the reproductive system, this
myth is based on studies where animals were givenextremely high dos es of
cannabinoids. These results have never been duplicated in human beings.
Interestingly, two studies done in 1978 and one done in 1988 showed that
hashish and marijuana may have actually stimulated the immune system in the
5. Marijuana is much more dangerous than tobacco
Smoked marijuana contains more carcinogens than does an equivalent amount
of tobacco (1.5 to 3 times). Marijuana, however, unlike tobacco, actually
dilates (enlarges) the air passages in the lungs which promotes
self-cleaning. This is one reason why cannabis has been found useful in the
past in treating asthmatics. It should be remembered that a heavy tobacco
smoker consumes much more tobacco than a heavy marijuana smoker consumes
marijuana. Two other factors are important. The first is that paraphernalia
laws directed against marijuana users make it difficult to smoke safely.
These laws make water pipes and bongs, which filter some of the carcinogens
out of the smoke, illegal and, hence, unavailable. The second is that, if
marijuana were legal, it would be more economical to have cannabis drinks
like bhang (a traditional drink in the Middle East) or tea which are totally
non-carcinogenic. This is in stark contrast with "smokeless" tobacco
products like snuff which can cause cancer of the mouth and throat. Nicotine
itself is very toxic in even small quantities. In contrast, the cannabinoids
are relatively non-toxic. When all of these facts are taken together, it can
be clearly seen that the reverse is true: marijuana is much SAFER than
6. Legal marijuana would cause carnage on the highways
Although marijuana, when used to intoxication, does impair performance in
a manner similar to alcohol, actual studies of the effect of marijuana on
the automobile accident rate suggest that it poses LESS of a hazard than
alcohol. When a random sample of fatal accident victims was studied, it was
initially found that marijuana was associated with RELATIVELY as many
accidents as alcohol. In other words, the number of accident victims
intoxicated on marijuana relative to the number of marijuana users in
society gave a ratio similar to that for accident victims intoxicated on
alcohol relative to the total number of alcohol users. However, a closer
examination of the victims revealed that around 85% of the people
intoxicated on marijuana WERE ALSO INTOXICATED ON ALCOHOL. For people only
intoxicated on marijuana, the rate was much lower than for alcohol alone.
This would suggest that legal marijuana would not pose as serious a hazard
as legal alcohol.
NOTE: We of the HCRC believe that DUI laws pertaining to driving under
the influence of alcohol should apply to driving under the influence of
marijuana. We believe in the RESPONSIBLE USE of marijuana, NOT IRRESPONSIBLE
7. Marijuana "flattens" human brainwaves
This is an out-and-out lie perpetrated by the Partnership for a Drug-Free
America. A few years ago, they ran a TV ad that purported to show, first, a
normal human brainwave, and second, a flat brainwave from a 14-year-old "on
marijuana". When researchers called up the TV networks to complain about
this commercial, the Partnership had to pull it from the air. It seems that
the Partnership faked the flat "marijuana brainwave". In reality, marijuana
has the effect of slightly INCREASING alpha wave activity. Alpha waves are
associated with meditative and relaxed states which are, in turn, often
associated with human creativity.
8. Marijuana impairs short-term memory
This is true but misleading. When one is intoxicated on alcohol, one's
motor control is affected. When one is intoxicated on marijuana, one's
concentration is affected. Any impairment of short-term memory disappears
when one is no longer intoxicated. Often, the short-term memory effect is
paired with a reference to Dr. Heath's poor rhesus monkeys to imply that the
condition is permanent.
9. Marijuana lingers in the body like DDT
This is also true but misleading. Cannabinoids are fat soluble as are
innumerable nutrients and, yes, some poisons like DDT. For example, the
essential nutrient, Vitamin A, is fat soluble but one never hears people who
favor marijuana prohibition making this comparison.
10. There are over a thousand chemicals in marijuana smoke
Again, true but misleading. The 31 August 1990 issue of the magazine
Science notes that of the over 800 volatile chemicals present in roasted
COFFEE, only 21 have actually been tested on animals and 16 of these cause
cancer in rodents. Yet, coffee remains legal and is generally considered
11. No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose
This is true. It was put in to see if you are paying attention. Animal
tests have revealed that extremely high doses of cannabinoids are needed to
have lethal effect. This has led scientists to conclude that the ratio of
the amount of cannabinoids necessary to get a person intoxicated (i.e.,
stoned) relative to the amount necessary to kill them is 1 to 40,000. In
other words, to overdose, you would have to consume 40,000 times as much
marijuana as you needed to get stoned. In contrast, the ratio for alcohol
varies between 1 to 4 and 1 to 10. It is easy to see how upwards of 5000
people die from alcohol overdoses every year and no one EVER dies of
Check us out
We believe that the truth is our strongest weapon. To date, the
prohibitionists have refused to meet us in public debate: they fear the
truth and know that they stand to lose in any direct confrontation. They
cower behind a wall of myths, lies, and half truths. In the battles that lie
ahead we will try to flush the prohibitionists into the open. In order to be
successful in this goal, we will need to batter down the myths and lies by
giving our message the widest possible distribution.
Check us out. Listen to our Truth Squad, check our sources, and ask us
the tough questions. Examine our claims with a skeptical, but open, mind. We
feel that after looking at the facts you will find it very hard to side with
the prohibitionists ever again.
We're looking for allies, declared or undeclared. Getting the message out
costs money. Our opponents dispose of literally hundreds-of-millions of
dollars. If you'd like to quietly donate to the cause, send your
contributions to the Hoosier Cannabis Relegalization Coalition at P.O. Box
5325, Bloomington, IN. If you'd like to help in a more direct way contact
me, Paul Hager, at (812) 333-1384. Our meetings are open to the public and
we welcome new members. Contact us for more information.
1) Marijuana and Health, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of
Sciences, 1982. Note: the Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior
of the "Marijuana and Health" study had its part of the final report
suppressed when it reviewed the evidence and recommended that possession of
small amounts of marijuana should no longer be a crime (TIME magazine, July
19, 1982). The two JAMA studies are: Co, B.T., Goodwin, D.W., Gado, M.,
Mikhael, M., and Hill, S.Y.: "Absence of cerebral atrophy in chronic
cannabis users", JAMA, 237:1229-1230, 1977; and, Kuehnle, J., Mendelson,
J.H., Davis, K.R., and New, P.F.J.: "Computed tomographic examination of
heavy marijuana smokers", JAMA, 237:1231- 1232, 1977.
2) See Marijuana and Health, ibid., for information on this research. See
also, Marijuana Reconsidered (1978) by Dr. Lester Grinspoon.
3) See "A Comparison of Marijuana Users and Non-users" by Norman Zinberg
and Andrew Weil (1971). This showed a negative correlation between use of
marijuana and use of alcohol. A recent article about the Dutch experience is
written up in "The Economics of Legalizing Drugs", by Richard J. Dennis, The
Atlantic Monthly, Vol 266, No. 5, Nov 1990, p. 130.
4) See a review of studies and their methodology in "Marijuana and
Immunity", Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol 20(1), Jan-Mar 1988. Studies
showing stimulation of the immune system: Kaklamani, et al., "Hashish
smoking and T- lymphocytes", 1978; Kalofoutis et al., "The significance of
lymphocyte lipid changes after smoking hashish", 1978. The 1988 study:
Wallace, J.M., Tashkin, D.P., Oishi, J.S., Barbers, R.G., "Peripheral Blood
Lymphocyte Subpopulations and Mitogen Responsiveness in Tobacco and
Marijuana Smokers", 1988, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, ibid.
5) For current information on cannabis drinks see Working Men and Ganja:
Marijuana Use in Rural Jamaica by M. C. Dreher, Institute for the Study of
Human Issues, 1982, ISBN 0-89727- 025-8. For information on cannabis and
actual cancer risk, see Marijuana and Health, ibid.
6) For a survey of studies relating to cannabis and highway accidents see
"Marijuana, Driving and Accident Safety", by Dale Gieringer, Journal of
Psychoactive Drugs, ibid.
7) For information about the Partnership ad, see Jack Herer's book, The
Emperor Wears No Clothes, 1990, p. 74. For information on memory and the
alpha brainwave enhancement effect, see "Marijuana, Memory, and Perception",
by R. L. Dornbush, M.D., M. Fink, M.D., and A. M. Freedman, M.D., presented
at the 124th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, May
8) See Marijuana and Health, ibid.
9) The fat solubility of cannabinoids and certain vitamins is well known.
See Marijuana and Health, ibid. For some information on vitamin A, see "The
A Team" in Scientific American, Vol 264, No. 2, February 1991, p. 16.
10) See "Too Many Rodent Carcinogens: Mitogenesis Increases Mutagenesis",
Bruce N. Ames and Lois Swirsky Gold, Science, Vol 249, 31 August 1990, p.
11) Cannabis and alcohol toxicity is compared in Marijuana Reconsidered,
ibid., p. 227. Yearly alcohol overdoses was taken from "Drug Prohibition in
the United States: Costs, Consequences, and Alternatives" by Ethan A.
Nadelmann, Science, Vol 245, 1 September 1989, p. 943.
-- paul hager email@example.com
"The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason." --
Thomas Paine, _The Age of Reason_
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