From “reefer madness” to “gateway drug” rhetoric, we’ve all heard plenty of crazy cannabis myths. Fortunately, with many countries recently legalizing the drug, we’re slowly removing the misinformation from our pool of common knowledge. In the interests of continuing that progress, here are a few of the surviving myths about cannabis:
- Today’s cannabis is 10-20x more potent than it was in the 70s. This statement has appeared all over the place and was often invoked by those who were against cannabis legalization. However, it just isn’t true – high-potency strains have been around for decades, as have methods for creating concentrated forms of the drug, for one thing. For another, the “10-20x stronger” figure comes from an analysis of samples that had degraded with time, showing much lower THC contents than they otherwise would have. This made the difference between the 70s’ cannabis and fresh cannabis seem enormous, but there’s really not much difference.
- Pot was everywhere in the US in the 60s. Some of us who weren’t around in the 60s tend to think of it as “the decade where Woodstock happened, along with… some other stuff, probably.” However, a 1969 poll showed that only 4% of American adults had tried marijuana. In 1985, that number had risen to 33%. So, there are way more stoners now than there were back then.
- Cannabis kills brain cells. This myth has been around for quite a while, and a 2012 study kept it alive by claiming that adolescent use of cannabis causes an 8-point drop in IQ. However, the study was criticized for failing to control for variables. Other studies have shown that cannabis does not have any effect on IQ, and does not kill brain cells. In fact, cannabis may even be able to promote neurogenesis.
Dishonorable Mention: Craziest Myths
The most insidious cannabis myths are the ones that sound the most plausible. By that criterion, the following myths are safe:
- You can get high on the leftover THC stored in your fat cells. There are elements of truth to this myth. A small amount of THC can be stored in fat cells throughout the body, and heavy exercise or stress – anything that burns that fat – can then release that THC back into the body. In extreme cases, it’s even possible (but still unlikely) that this could cause someone to fail a drug test. However, the amount that is released is definitely not enough to cause a high.
- Drinking bong water will get you high. Drinking bong water will make you sick, and that’s it. But why is that? The THC decarboxylates in the bowl, so if there was any left, it would still be active in the bong water. The problem is, the amount of THC left in the water is negligible. THC is fat-soluble, not water-soluble, so it won’t cling to water molecules – it just goes straight through while the water filters out tar.
- Cannabis can turn you gay. This one is patently ridiculous, but there are a handful of people who claim to experience a stronger attraction to the same sex while smoking. Urbandictionary calls this “highsexualism.” Of course, cannabis doesn’t have the power to alter the user’s sexual orientation. It can lower the user’s inhibitions, though.
Cannabis can make men infertile. This one isn’t true. Some studies have shown that cannabis use can temporarily lower sperm count, but it’s only temporary, and other studies have found that cannabis actually increases sperm count. So no, cannabis can’t make anyone infertile.