It’s hard to deny the overwhelming prevalence of marijuana in our society. From high school students to politicians, the cannabis leaf remains a smoking hot topic in daily discussion and debate. With all this talk, there are sure to be some misconceptions, right? Of course, many of the claims made by both supporters and opponents of marijuana are not rooted in fact.
First, let’s address the most common myth about marijuana: it is addictive. Marijuana is not physically addictive, and a very small number of those who smoke it end up in drug rehabilitation programs. However, although it does not cause physical dependence, those who smoke marijuana often experience physiological addiction, leading to mental dependence. So while it is not addictive in the same way as other abused substances, it is unfair to claim that marijuana is not addictive at all.
While many believe that marijuana causes brain damage or memory loss, long-term brain damage only occurs in heavy users and is extremely rare. Users do experience short-term memory loss, but only while intoxicated. Some also claim that users experience a loss of motivation, but studies have shown that this decline in motivation occurs only while someone is intoxicated. Marijuana use does have its side effects, but they tend to be short term.
As far as medical treatment, it is often claimed that marijuana holds a value. Conversely, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research in California has found that smoking marijuana is not effective or safe as a treatment method. Most researchers are attempting to isolate active ingredients within marijuana to produce a treatment that is an alternative to smoking.
Due to the respective legalities of marijuana and alcohol, many assume that alcohol is less damaging than marijuana, despite the increasing number of alcohol-related incidents per year. Alcohol is the more likely of the two to be a factor in a car accident; however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims marijuana is one of “the most frequently detected psychoactive substance[s] among driving populations,” second only to alcohol. While drunk driving is a huge problem, driving under the influence must also be recognized as an issue.
The list of misconceptions goes on and on, and society remains, for the most part, uninformed or misinformed about marijuana and its use. Legislation in favor of legalizing marijuana continues to make its way to state general assemblies; for example, Delegate David Englin of Alexandria recently proposed that Virginia look in to legalizing marijuana and selling it in Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores. Legalization has become more plausible, making it important than ever for citizens to understand all effects, or the lack thereof, resulting from marijuana use.