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Author: Subject: Marijuana Myths

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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 11:44 AM
MARIJUANA MYTHS
by Paul Hager
Chair, ICLU Drug Task Force


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 the work of 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 partially legalized marijuana in the 1970s. Since then, hard drug use-heroin and cocaine-have DECLINED substantially. If marijuana really were a gateway drug, one would have expected use of hard drugs to have gone up, not down. This apparent "negative gateway" effect has also been observed in the United States. Studies done in the early 1970s showed a negative correlation between use of marijuana and use of alcohol. A 1993 Rand Corporation study that compared drug use in states that had decriminalized marijuana versus those that had not, found that where marijuana was more available-the states that had decriminalized-hard drug abuse as measured by emergency room episodes decreased. In short, what science and actual experience tell us is that marijuana tends to substitute for the much more dangerous hard drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin.

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 given extremely high-in many cases, near-lethal-doses 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 people studied.

5. Marijuana is much more dangerous than tobacco

Smoked marijuana contains about the same amount of carcinogens as does an equivalent amount of tobacco. It should be remembered, however, that a heavy tobacco smoker consumes much more tobacco than a heavy marijuana smoker consumes marijuana. This is because smoked tobacco, with a 90% addiction rate, is the most addictive of all drugs while marijuana is less addictive than caffeine. 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. When all of these facts are taken together, it can be clearly seen that the reverse is true: marijuana is much SAFER than tobacco.

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 finding has been supported by other research using completely different methods. For example, an economic analysis of the effects of decriminalization on marijuana usage found that states that had reduced penalties for marijuana possession experienced a rise in marijuana use and a decline in alcohol use with the result that fatal highway accidents decreased. This would suggest that, far from causing "carnage", legal marijuana might actually save lives.

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 is more potent today than in the past

This myth is the result of bad data. The researchers who made the claim of increased potency used as their baseline the THC content of marijuana seized by police in the early 1970s. Poor storage of this marijuana in un-air conditioned evidence rooms caused it to deteriorate and decline in potency before any chemical assay was performed. Contemporaneous, independent assays of unseized "street" marijuana from the early 1970s showed a potency equivalent to that of modern "street" marijuana. Actually, the most potent form of this drug that was generally available was sold legally in the 1920s and 1930s by the pharmaceutical company Smith-Klein under the name, "American Cannabis".

9. Marijuana impairs short-term memory

This is true but misleading. Any impairment of short-term memory disappears when one is no longer under the influence of marijuana. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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 fairly safe.

12. 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 marijuana overdoses.

WHAT IS THE ICLU DRUG TASK FORCE?

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) Drug Task Force is involved in education and lobbying efforts directed toward reforming drug policy. Specifically, we support ACLU Policy Statement number 210 which calls for the legalization of marijuana. We also support an end to the drug war. In its place, we favor "harm reduction" strategies which treat drug abuse as what it is- a medical problem-rather than a criminal justice problem.

The Drug Task Force also works to end urine and hair testing of workers by private industry. These kinds of tests violate worker privacy to no good purpose because they detect past use of certain drugs (mostly marijuana) while ignoring others (e.g., LSD) and cannot detect current impairment. In situations where public and worker safety is a legitimate concern, we advocate impairment testing devices which reliably detect degradation of performance without infringing upon worker privacy.

For more information about the activities of the Drug Task Force, call the ICLU at (317) 635-4059 or call Paul Hager at (812) 333-1384 or e-mail to hagerp@cs.indiana.edu on the InterNet.

SOURCES
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) 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. See "A Comparison of Marijuana Users and Non-users" by Norman Zinberg and Andrew Weil (1971) for the negative correlation between use of marijuana and use of alcohol. The 1993 Rand Corporation study is "The Effect of Marijuana Decriminalization on Hospital Emergency Room Episodes: 1975 - 1978" by Karyn E. Model.
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) The 90% figure comes from Health Consequences of Smoking:
Nicotine Addiction, Surgeon General's Report, 1988. In Health magazine in an article entitled, "Hooked, Not Hooked" by Deborah Franklin (pp. 39-52), compares the addictives of various drugs and ranks marijuana below coffeine. 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. The effect of decriminalization on highway accidents is analyzed in "Do Youths Substitute Alcohol and Marijuana? Some Econometric Evidence" by Frank J. Chaloupka and Adit Laixuthai, Nov. 1992, University of Illinois at Chicago.
7) For information about the Partnership ad, see Jack Herer's book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, 1990, p. 74. See also "Hard Sell in the Drug War", The Nation, March 9, 1992, by Cynthia Cotts, which reveals that the Partnership receives a large percentage of its advertizing budget from alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies and is thus disposed toward exaggerating the risks of marijuana while downplaying the risks of legal drugs. 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 3-7, 1971.
8) See "Cannabis 1988, Old Drug New Dangers, The Potency Question" by Tod H Mikuriya, M.D. and Michael Aldrich, Ph.D., Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, ibid.
9) See Marijuana and Health, ibid. Also see "Marijuana, Memory, and Perception", ibid.
10) 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.
11) See "Too Many Rodent Carcinogens: Mitogenesis Increases Mutagenesis", Bruce N. Ames and Lois Swirsky Gold, Science, Vol 249, 31 August 1990, p. 971.
12) 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.

http://www.drugtext.org/sub/marmyt1.html

 

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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 12:14 PM
Good Post.

About #5. it is true the smoking marijuana produces tar
at about the same rate as smoking tobacco.

This is a fair comparison if you compare pipe to pipe smoking.

However cigarettes have additives to make the nicotine more readily
absorbed by the lungs. Organic compounds that are
toxic and cause cancer.

So cigarettes are MORE dangerous than a doobie.

Many of these myths were made up by abolishionists of
the 30s and 40's.

As Steppenwolf said

"You've been telling lies so long, some believe they're true"

Don't step on the Grass, Sam.

Peace
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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 12:59 PM
The other thing to remember is that if MJ were legal, there would be no need to smoke it. You could eat it or "smoke" it through a vaporizer. Neither of those two methods produce the tar and harmful chemicals contained in the smoke.

 

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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 01:10 PM
quote:
The most celebrated study that claims to show brain damage is the rhesus monkey study


Did the monkeys do bong hits or smoke joints?

 

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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 01:35 PM
8. Marijuana is more potent today than in the past

I don't believe that this is a myth. I've been an adult since the 70's and I see a definite increase in potency. Here in Canada there are a lot of hydroponic grow operations which produce fabulous pot. Its very common and readily available...or so my kids tell me

 

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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 02:59 PM
I am somewhat indifferent to the MJ question; however, I would like to see more studies done on the effects of Neuropathic pain. It seems that that is what many AIDS patients are saying about its effects in that it provides better relief that opiates or it would obviously have a synergistic effect with opiates concerning that level of pain and discomfort. One of the best pain relievers for terminally ill patients is heroin but that argument against it is that the patient will become addicted. Go figure!

[Edited on 2/15/2004 by ScottyVII]

 

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  posted on 2/14/2004 at 07:55 PM
quote:
I am somewhat indifferent to the MJ question; however, I would like to see more studies done on the effects of Nueropathic pain. It seems that that is what many AIDS patients are sayihng about its effects in that it provides better relief that opiods or it would obviously have a synergistic effect with opiods concerning that level of pain and discomfort.
<snip>



There was a study done in England that looked at both opiate and cannaboid receptors on
damaged nerves. This was reported in the Journal of Neurology. There is a article
about this study at WebMD.com if you can't get to the Journal.

The Study took radioactive markers of cannaboid and opiod compounds and applied them
to damaged nerve tissue. (from rats that had neuropathy induced)

The results showed that when nerve tissue is damaged the opiod receptors don't bind as
well as the cannaboid pain receptors do.

This explains what folks with PN have experienced using Medical Marijuana for nerve pain.

And the side effects of Marijuana are fewer and far less dangerous than opiates.
And It is more effective than opiates for neuropathy.

I'd rather have Opiates for acute pain like a kidney stone
or bone fracture.

But for Nerve Pain, Marijuana is far more appropriate.
And safer.

I believe there is also a study of treating HIV induced Neuropathy
with Marijuana underway at The National Institute of Health in Bethesda MD.
I don't know when they will publish but the NIH web site might have some info also.
And I have heard about some studies at some universities in California.
And a study in Boston. But It seems many researchers have trouble getting research
grade Marijuana from the DEA. This is the only legal source for the studies.
Senator Kerry was on of several Senators to write the DEA to encourage them
to meet their obligations to his constituents in the Medical Community.

Peace
John

 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 10:46 AM
Thanks John! I will pursue the sources that you listed and continue to press the issue.
 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 11:06 AM
yes, if they want credibility, #8 is total bunk. (at least people tell me so) the stuff now, man nobody A) would buy anything with seeds anymore, B) buy anything that you had to roll up to enjoy, C) buy anything that wasn't sticky.......... so I think it truly is a better world thru carefull horticulture these days.... at least they tell me this....... all second hand, I mean fourth hand..... I mean I made this up......... It's all a lie in fact.......... a ploy for attention........ disregard.........

 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 02:45 PM
john is a good source for any medical maryjane issues.

check norml.org for other sources.

good article Ronnie.

quote:
Marijuana damages the reproductive system

it was always my understanding that long term marijuana use can cause ovaries to shrink with . dont know if that is true though, i just got all tested out and my are of normal size....considering i've been smoking since i was too young to mention, perhaps that is a myth also....

I know one thing, the $hit sure used to be cheaper. i have a friend that will only smoke
kind bud at $20 a pop for two J's if she's lucky (she uses a bowl but that just a point of refernce). RIP OFF if you ask me.

 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 04:51 PM
MJ itself doesn't supress the immune system but smoking anything will.

 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 10:18 PM
I was going to say something here, but for some reason I can't remember it....

 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 11:11 PM
Huh?

 

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  posted on 2/15/2004 at 11:26 PM
Did somebody say something?

 

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  posted on 2/16/2004 at 12:56 AM
I really don't make a case on the MJ issue......rather have whisky on the rocks. BUT...

*3. Marijuana is a "gateway" drug-it leads to hard drugs*

If it'a gateway drug at all, it's probably b/c the DELAER is selling some other bad sh!t along with weed.

*6. Legal marijuana would cause carnage on the highways*

Dunno, but if there are people I don't want to see driving that are fine (PERIOD!), you better believe that I don't want people driving that are high. I don't even want people driving with their morning coffee!!

 

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  posted on 2/16/2004 at 12:57 AM
Read #8 carefully. They are not saying that you can't get stronger
stuff. Or even that todays run of the mill weed is not stronger.

They say the baseline they use for comparision with todays
street herb was not stored properly. So the comparison
that is used to provide the data is not accurate.

Good data shows a much smaller increase.

What this really means is that the perception that today's
street weed is much stronger is inaccurate.

And The stuff I got last week had seeds.

Seeds ain't evil.

Homegrown's all right with me.
Homegrown is the way it should be.

Here is a good link for the scientific evidence
for Medical Marijuana

http://www.medmjscience.org/

Peace
John

[Edited on 2/16/2004 by johnwott]

 

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  posted on 2/16/2004 at 08:34 AM
quote:
And The stuff I got last week had seeds.

Seeds ain't evil.

Homegrown's all right with me.
Homegrown is the way it should be.


The stuff I get almost every week has seeds. It's not as convenient as seedless, but it is a lot less expensive. And you're right - homegrown is the way it should be. It should be perfectly legal to grow, cultivate, and possess it but illegal to sell it. That way, if you really want to smoke a little weed, you have to put a little effort into it.

 

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  posted on 2/16/2004 at 02:45 PM
quote:

That way, if you really want to smoke a little weed, you have to put a little effort into it.



What about folks too sick to grow their own?


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  posted on 2/16/2004 at 03:46 PM
quote:
What about folks too sick to grow their own?


My comment was meant more for those who want to smoke it recreationally, but if you were sick and needed some, I'm sure many people would be happy to give you some of theirs, myself included. If it were legal to grow, I would have no problem with giving some to others as it really wouldn't cost me too much to do it.

 

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  posted on 2/17/2004 at 12:30 AM
quote:
quote:
What about folks too sick to grow their own?


My comment was meant more for those who want to smoke it recreationally, but if you were sick and needed some, I'm sure many people would be happy to give you some of theirs, myself included. If it were legal to grow, I would have no problem with giving some to others as it really wouldn't cost me too much to do it.


Yep

This happens all the time in areas where it is legal to grow.

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  posted on 2/17/2004 at 05:45 PM
Pot is a stupid drug, it makes you apathetic and easily controlled. Why waste time with that? If you want that kind of high, go directly to hash, get what you need. Why waste time with weeds, God put beautiful poppy plants here? It's like beer or champagne.

 

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  posted on 2/17/2004 at 08:50 PM
Best sh*t I ever smoked was grown about 40 miles up the road from my house.

One or two tokes qualifies as KB doesn't it? That's my kind of consumption.

 

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  posted on 2/18/2004 at 02:42 PM
quote:
Pot is a stupid drug, it makes you apathetic and easily controlled.


More Drug war lies.

I started to smoke when I was 17. Went from an honor role student
to a Straight A student and won a full acedemic Scholarship to college.
I met a lot of motivated and intelligent people that smoked pot
in high school and college.

Some folks are apathetic, some not.
Don't blame drugs for personality traits.

Gina likes the Poppy? That explains many things.
Chasing the Dragon is a not a game I wish to play.


Peace
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  posted on 2/18/2004 at 03:03 PM
My sentiments exactly John. And Gina - I prefer beer to champagne, so bite me.

 

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  posted on 2/18/2004 at 03:17 PM
quote:
Some folks are apathetic, some not.
Don't blame drugs for personality traits.

Exactly.
I have tons of anxiety, do I blame pot for that? Of course not.
I had it long before I ever started using stuff.
Of course certain strains are more likely to make you anxious like sativas.
Indicas just give you couch lock.

 

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