It’s Time Everyone Dumped Their Belief in Old Cannabis Myths
It surprises and somewhat dismays me that a full year into focusing my consulting practice on the cannabis industry, I still meet raised eyebrows or the occasional “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” when I tell folks of my involvement. Clearly many of us should rethink some common cannabis myths.
1. It’s “cannabis”. Not “marijuana”.
I never use the term “marijuana”. I might say “weed” (rarely “pot”) but usually simply refer to the plant by its proper name, cannabis. In an earlier piece I explained my reasons behind this, however suffice it to say that the name “marijuana” has racist undertones and came into vogue only when the United States government turned its sights on the plant in the 1930’s. Like any derogatory label we should eschew its use.
2. This is Medicine. Pure and Simple.
I could write pages upon pages on this subject alone. I will admit to believing, upon entering the cannabis industry that cannabis offered merely symptomatic relief of certain conditions. However, and despite strong anecdotal evidence from people close to me who claimed otherwise, I sincerely doubted claims of its efficacy in treating the root causes of diseases and conditions.
I was wrong! The evidence is incontrovertible. Not only does cannabis help with myriad symptoms (anxiety, seizures, pain, tremors, inflammation, nausea, depression, headaches, lack of hunger), it also directly attacks many diseases, most importantly cancer. David (Dedi) Meiri of the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research at Technion in Israel studies the 144 “cannabinoids” that have been discovered to date (you likely know about THC, and maybe CBD). His research shows the ability of certain cannabinoids to reduce the number of prostate and breast cancer cells in a patient.
Even if you doubt Dr. Meiri’s cancer claims, there are a number of studies showing its ability to treat Alzheimers, Hepatitis-C, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Obesity/Diabetes, and PTSD. Not the symptoms. The root condition!
Not to mention that there are also over 30 US states and dozens of countries that presently have medical cannabis regimes in place which one presumes are based on some science!
3. Much of this is not about getting high.
Of the 144 cannabinoids that have been discovered thus far, only one, THC, has been found to be psychoactive. The other 143 won’t get you high. CBD is well known as an effective treatment of pediatric seizures. In addition to the 144 identified cannabinoids, there are also hundreds of non-psychoactive terpenes that are believed to be somehow involved in the beneficial mechanisms of cannabis. Today, hundreds of thousands of people wake up and medicate with CBD-based oils that have a huge effect on their quality of life, yet no effect on their state of consciousness whatsoever.
4. The Moral Argument is on very shaky ground
Our society tolerates alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, all of which are psychoactive compounds. If you objectively consider the potential harms from these and juxtapose them against cannabis, there is no case for its prohibition.
And really! Whoever gave governments the right to regulate consciousness?
The prohibition of cannabis has its roots in a combination of racism and pandering to wealthy corporate interests by the US federal government.
Imagine a world where the four substances did not exist and they were suddenly discovered, and immediately understood. There is absolutely no doubt that both alcohol and tobacco would be illegal. Neil Degrasse Tyson makes this point in this article.
If you don’t believe him, think about the 88,000 Americans that alcohol kills, along with the 480,000 that cigarettes kill directly (5,000 and 39,000 respectively in Canada). Cannabis has never directly killed a single human soul and has myriad medical applications, yet it is the one that’s been illegal these past 80+ years!
5. Cannabis Myths.
Most of what you think you know just wrong. There are several cannabis myths that must be dispelled.
Cannabis kills brain cells! Sorry! In fact it’s the opposite! Except for young people, there is no evidence whatsoever that there are any long-term effects on the brain due to cannabis use. There are short-term effects on memory and learning that are somewhat understood, however those have been shown to dissipate within a few months. Fascinatingly, there are studies that suggest in fact cannabis promotes neurogenesis, or the production of new brain cells.
- Cannabis Causes Cancer. Cannabis doesn’t cause cancer, but may indeed prevent it, and treat (eliminate or reduce) it. Don’t believe me? How about the National Institute of Health or cancer.gov?
- Cannabis is a “gateway drug” and leads to use of other, more harmful substances. Right? Wrong! There is no evidence whatsoever that this is true. This cannabis myth was created in the 70’s as part of the ill-advised war on drugs. There is evidence, however, that cannabis is a gateway drug OFF of substances like Oxycontin and Fentanyl.
- Medical cannabis is really just all about THC and getting high. If that were so, then why do many of the licensed producers sell CBD-only products that will never get you high no matter how much you take? Only one of the cannabinoids discovered to date is psychoactive. The rest have other functions, such as binding to the endocannabinoid system, which should be noted was only discovered in 1992. Meaning, the science is very new.
6. Former politicians are lining up to get involved.
Not that what a politician really does provides much guidance on the subject.
It’s instructive that former Prime Minister John Turner, and former Premiers Ernie Eves (Ontario) and Mike Harcourt (BC) have or continue to contribute insight on the boards of medical cannabis companies. Such involvement by these politicians helps to comfort the public and accelerate the normalization of the cannabis industry as a whole.
7. The Canadian Government is very much taking a harm reduction approach
Choosing a former police chief to head up the file was politically astute on Justin Trudeau’s part. It is a clear signal that Canada won’t be operating in a wide-open market when it comes to buying and selling of cannabis. The Government’s Marijuana Task Force had two distinct main objectives; keeping cannabis from young people, and eliminating organized crime’s role. This approach, as opposed to the market development approach taken in Colorado and California, will be popular with Canadians but will stifle the potential for businesses here to take advantage of international markets. In the process, it will almost certainly diminish the ability for smaller, more innovative and fleet-of-foot businesses to carve out leadership positions in the global cannabis industry while others from the US, Israel and elsewhere assume those positions.
Societal Change is Hard, but Worth It!
As a certain world “leader” recently stated, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
This too is a complicated file (the difference is we all know that! Already!). But recent history offers three examples of how society can achieve a quantum shift in beliefs, behaviour and government policy in just a few decades, and that augurs well for our industry.
Think about the bathhouse raids of the early 80’s in Toronto, and all the reasons the Pride movement was necessary, and compare that to today’s reality. Just 30 years ago kissing your same sex partner in public would have landed you in the slammer and now it’s just not a big deal to anyone. Why? We got smart; that’s why.
Same thing in reverse with drunk driving. I recall as a kid I heard the “joke” that went “good thing I was driving because I was way too drunk to walk”. No one would say that now. Because it wouldn’t be funny. But it was then. That’s how our society has changed. And in that same time frame (about 1.5 generations) we have relegated cigarette smoking from something the majority do to a mere 15% of the population.
Information will do that to you! And the cannabis industry too will see the same monumental shift in public attitudes as accurate, scientifically-derived information continues to kick the old cannabis myths, beliefs and perspectives to the curb side where they belong.
And don’t be afraid to admit, as this writer does, about being wrong about these and other cannabis myths that society would be advised to eliminate.