Marijuana Myths That Just Won’t Die

No, it won’t turn you into a bat, and other common sense.

Illustration by James the Stanton

Over the years, generations of pot smokers have been fascinated by the ridiculous propaganda pieces centered around some ill-fated run-in with the Devil Scourge, marijuana. From insanity to cannibalism to death, every last horrible thing has been blamed on weed—and it’s still happening. One of my favorite stories is about pharmacologist James Munch, who just happened to be very good friends with Harry J. Anslinger, the chief honcho of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. Anslinger would call on Munch to testify to the dangers of the “devil weed.” Munch claimed—under oath, mind you—that “after two puffs on a marijuana cigarette, I was turned into a bat.” Anslinger stopped asking him to testify after that one. And while no one is claiming metamorphoses anymore, myths about marijuana still abound. Here are the top whoppers that “experts” have recently claimed about cannabis.

Back in 2014, Annapolis, Md., police chief Michael Pristoop was testifying against legalization in his home state when he cited a chilling statistic from Colorado’s experience with legalization: “I remember the first day it was decriminalized, there were 37 deaths.” This was followed by the deafening sound of every jaw in the room hitting the floor in response to what was a total-bullshit story that originated on a satire website. A senator in the room tried to correct him, but the chief was having none of it: “If it was a misquote, then I’ll stand behind the mistake,” said Pristoop. “But I’m holding on to information I was provided.” As it turns out, no one has ever overdosed and died from cannabis consumption. Anywhere. Ever.

Every fall for decades, TV news stations and newspapers have run articles warning against suspicious ne’er-do-wells handing out drug-laced candy for Halloween. In the ’70s it was coke, in the ’90s crack, and now it’s weed. Parents are drilled to pore over any candy given to children to make sure everything is perfectly safe. But like all the other dangerous items people have been supposedly stuffing into treats—razor blades, poisons, independent thoughts—there is absolutely no record in any police department in the country of a single incident. And can I be super-real for minute? Edibles are pricey. Who is wasting their stash on some kid who can’t even appreciate the difference between an indoor and outdoor grow?

One of the longest-standing weed myths concers flashbacks. Some people have claimed that, just as with LSD, the sudden release of THC stored in fat cells rapidly broken down during exercise, sex, or crash dieting can result in a flashback. Some even claim that the released THC can show up in a drug test long after use. In fact, this myth is so pervasive that in 2009 a professor from Australia published a paper on the idea in the British Journal of Pharmacology. However, it’s nearly impossible for a cell to hold enough THC to actually show up on a test. These days, more and more doctors and physiologists are suggesting that the momentary high is coming from naturally occurring drugs like endorphins, dopamine, and most important anandamide, which fits into the same receptors in our brains as THC. Sorry, no free high for you.

stashbox@seattleweekly.com

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