It’s been a long journey for marijuana. From the days of criminalization all the way to the present.
It hasn’t been easy. A lot of sacrifices were made for the cause. Many people lost their freedom or livelihood or both because of a weed joint found on their person.
But that’s all in the past now, right? With legalization literally around the corner, things are looking good for marijuana and marijuana lovers everywhere, right?
Not quite. We’re not really there yet.
For a lot of people out there who have misconceptions about marijuana. We’re talking about the kind of misconceptions that have been fed with years of misinformation about some imaginary harms that people who use marijuana are exposed to.
Like for example how cannabis is a gateway drug. Or how it makes people lazy and stupid. It’s not uncommon to find people who still believe that stoners are unemployed bums living off society without contributing anything of their own to make it better.
Even Hollywood had its fair share of movies that reinforced these misconceptions about marijuana smokers for decades. So perhaps it’s time as we wait for October 17 to finally roll around to clear up some of these negative images first.
The bum’s favorite drug
One look at the various movies where marijuana smokers have been featured is enough to tell you that this stereotype is the favorite by lazy writers and uninspired filmmakers. Even The Big Lebowski doesn’t escape this trap. The Dude is unemployed, single lives in a rundown place and walks around in flip-flops and pajama pants all day.
But we all know that this is just not true.
The majority of pot lovers are gainfully employed upstanding citizens who contribute a lot to the society. And even without referring to surveys that prove this point, the math alone backs up this point.
According to numerous studies millions of people use marijuana these days. Now if all of these people were unemployed who then are these people showing up for work every day?
The truth is, pot lovers are stockbrokers, teachers, lawyers, and engineers. That stereotype of the stoner being a bum sleeping under a bridge and living in a perpetual stupor is just a Hollywood cliche.
And as far as Hollywood cliches go, this one couldn’t be further from the truth.
It leads to hardcore drugs
It’s hard not to imagine an anti-cannabis conservative making this unsubstantiated claim about marijuana.
Their soundbite seems convincing, “it’s a gateway drug”. Not only is it false but it also builds on the previous misconception.
The idea is that those bums who smoke marijuana will eventually move on to hard drugs such as heroin and LSD. But you might ask why is that false?
Because there are no data to corroborate it. No scientific study including the one sponsored by the United Nations has presented any evidence that people who started with marijuana moved on to other hard drugs.
In fact, it sounds a lot like the cautionary tales that overprotective parents would come up with to dissuade their children from doing something they would want to do anyway. Such as drinking alcohol.
Which is, by the way, a gateway drug in and of its own right. A study by the US Congress found that people who drank alcohol daily were more likely to turn to hardcore drugs. The same study, on the other hand, exonerated marijuana from this accusation.
It’s true, you might find drug addicts who at some point smoked marijuana. But that is mostly coincidental. More likely than not they were already halfway toward substance abuse when they made a stop to smoke a joint.
A dangerous drug
First of all, marijuana is not a drug. Even if the US federal government still classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin and LSD, it’s not as dangerous as many claim or fear.
For one, marijuana is not addictive. People smoke it for weeks and then they stop. Do they get withdrawal symptoms? Hardly. And any effects of the plant or its flowers are temporary and tend to disappear after a short while.
The other point I’d like to stress here is that marijuana is not fatal. There have been no recorded cases where marijuana use had lead to an overdose or death. Not a single case. And compared to legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is the most benign of all three.
Why is it illegal then?
That’s a fair point. You get that a lot in places where marijuana is still illegal. But the fact that something is made legal or illegal doesn’t mean that much. Tobacco is legal even though it’s an addictive substance that causes cancer. So what does that say about its legality?
The same argument applies to alcohol as well. Fatal accidents caused by DUI’s are up there on the list of leading causes of death along with cancer, and diabetes. Yet alcohol is freely available for anyone aged 21 in the country.
Anyway, this misconception is losing traction quickly now that the Marijuana Act has been passed in the Senate.
The negative connotations
To be honest this is one is deeply rooted in the individual’s psyche and it would take some time for it to be uprooted. It has to do with all that misinformation being hammered through the media for decades.
When you mention the word marijuana, this is what most people think. All those misconceptions come up by association. Maybe legalizing it will expose the fallacy of such stereotypes. As more and more people see that marijuana is not a gateway drug, is not smoked by bums and misfits, poses no health risks and doesn’t lead to suicide or depression, maybe then all the dark ghosts that have been haunting this green plant will lift off. Then one day we’ll all be able to vape or eat our edibles in public without a trace of guilt.
Until then we will just enjoy our green leaf in peace. Far out.