By Joan Eberhardt
Pop culture and society at large has kind of always had an idea about what the marijuana user looks like. He’s a young guy, he might not get much accomplished day-to-day, he likes comedy movies and snacks. There’s a chance he’s on a path towards serious drug use, but not today! But we all know that’s mostly nonsense. Twenty percent of Americans live in a state that allows adults to use marijuana however they please, and you can be pretty sure not all of them look like young Jim Breuer. Let’s tackle some cannabis misconceptions below.
Who consumes marijuana?
It turns out, lots of different kinds of people use marijuana for lots of reasons. Obviously many people enjoy using marijuana recreationally, but lots and lots of people rely on it as treatment for their medical conditions. There were 1.2 million medical marijuana users in the United States in 2016, and while it’s true that 60% are men, they’re middle aged guys looking to relieve pain, not get high. In fact, it could be a vital tool in stopping the opioid epidemic in the US. States with robust medical marijuana programs see a 25% reduction in opiate-related deaths in the first year after the law was enacted.
Recreational users look more like Red Foreman than Eric.
Since cannabis has seen major expansions in availability and social acceptance in the last few years, the average user is a little more likely to be a middle-aged or older adult than their teenaged kids. Federal data released in 2016 shows the number of adults who consume marijuana increased significantly, while during that same time the number of teenagers who consume didn’t budge.
They don’t spend all day on the couch.
Many athletes report consuming cannabis as part of their training regimen. Players, and occasionally coaches, have spoken out in support of cannabis use, advocating that it should be allowed under league rules. The NFL and its players have been going back-and-forth on this for some time. It’s possible the entire UFC uses marijuana. Athletes who play high-level professional sports train crazy hard, and pay the price for it through injuries to muscles or joints. They say cannabis helps reduce muscle inflammation, and treats muscle pain.
Marijuana isn’t the gateway drug
The old thinking goes that 99% of drug addicts say they tried marijuana before they tried any other drug, but it’s pretty reasonable to assume they also tried coffee, tea, bubble gum, or candy canes before they moved onto harder substances. The real question is, what is the first substance kids or teens use before moving onto hard drugs? There’s pretty good research to indicate that before a kid tries marijuana for the first time, that kid has already tried alcohol or tobacco. In fact, of the 2,800 12th graders surveyed, only 14% reported they tried marijuana first, far below the 54% who tried alcohol or 32% who tried cigarettes. Access to opiates, and the ripple effects that come along with the opiate epidemic, are huge gateways to harder drug use in recent years. Even patients who were prescribed opiates as part of their medical treatment have found themselves seeking out illegal drug markets when the legal supply runs out, but the physical pain remains. Unfortunately, the real gateway drugs have been perfectly legal for some time.
Cannabis doesn’t turn your mind to mush
Fortunately, cannabis users aren’t always completely forgetful, though that is a real thing. Many of them are brilliant scientists and artists. Oliver Stone has spoken freely about it. Maya Angelou reportedly once “settled into a job as a waitress and began smoking marijuana with abandon.” Cool ex-convict Martha Stewart makes no secret of her marijuana use. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time has consumed cannabis. Senator Rand Paul sure had some wacky adventures in college. Barack Obama understood the point was to inhale. Carl Sagan was a vocal cannabis advocate.
What’s the strangest marijuana misconception you’ve ever heard? Tell us in the comments!