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Marijuana Myths Abound

April 14, 2010

Marijuana, not to put too fine a point on it, is illegal.  Its possession and use is against the law.

People used to go to jail for possessing small quantities of cannabis.  That’s rarely the case these days, at least in Canada; the United States is a different kettle of fish where the ever-feared marijuaniacs are reviled in some conservative states.

Marijuana is a relatively benign drug, though still a drug that can cause harm.

That said, there are many persistent, if patently false, claims about the evils of marijuana.  One that seems to have some bite, in the law enforcement community predominantly, is that marijuana is a so-called ‘gateway drug’.

The theory is that if you use marijuana you are more likely to go up the ladder of abuse to decidedly risky drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

The logic in the gateway theory is irrevocably flawed.  In essence what this failed theory suggests is that marijuana use leads to the abuse of other drugs.

Succinctly, picking a number out of thin air, say 80% of cocaine abusers have used marijuana.  According to the gateway theory that means that marijuana use led to cocaine use.  Logically, that is nonsense.

One could as easily assert that 90% of cocaine abusers have drank alcohol.  Therefore, as this failed logic goes, alcohol consumption leads to cocaine abuse.

Other theories abound.  Most are wrong – logically and scientifically.

Many people I know use marijuana.  They are neither criminals nor abusers of other drugs.  In fact, in my experience, it’s more often the case that the people I know who smoke marijuana are strongly against other drugs, methamphetamines and cocaine in particular.  They know that using these drugs can lead to extreme mental and-or physical harm.

In balance, though, one must acknowledge that the immoderate use of any drug can lead to emotional and physical problems.  Alcoholics and cigarette smokers come to mind.

So what’s the attraction of marijuana?

It is both a soothing and, sometimes, mind expanding drug.  It can also, if exceptionally, cause wild mood swings, depression, erratic behaviour and the like.  Not unlike alcohol.

Decriminalizing marijuana will not, in and of itself, create a tsunami of criminal activity.  More likely, it would take away the huge profits organized crime enjoys.  ( Though organized crime will always find a way to custom-make new drugs to which people will be attracted.  )

If taxed, like cigarettes, like alcohol, ‘legal’ marijuana could generate millions in new revenues for government treasuries.

The bigger question, perhaps, is why we humans, many of us anyway, gravitate to drugs in the first place.

Why do I enjoy a nice cold beer? So much?

Alcohol, as marijuana, provides a relief.  It is not a sign of weakness that we seek release and relief from our stresses, it’s healthy that we seek to relieve stress.

Stress, as Canadian Hans Selye, who coined the term in the 1950s, showed, is a healthy part of everyday life.  It makes us stronger.  However, when stress goes beyond a tipping point, its damaging effects accumulate.  Relief, through drugs, meditation, exercise – choose your poison – appears in this context a ‘natural’ mechanism to protect ourselves.

The best stress reliever, however, is a strong community – of family, friends and acquaintances.  Love remains the elixir that unburdens us.

Now there’s an addiction we can all live with.

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