We Fact-Checked a Bunch of Crappy Weed Myths
Prepare to be enraged.
4/20 was a few weeks ago, which means everyone, including people who normally don't give a crap about weed (looking at you, media pundits) felt compelled to express their ill-informed opinions on it.
Just last week, a radio host tried to tell me that weed can send a person into a ketamine-induced dream state and that swapping spit while sharing a joint is a health concern—you can listen to the entire train-wreck interview here (it starts at the 22-minute mark).
This year is a double whammy because the Canadian government just announced its plans for legalizing cannabis by July 2018. And stateside, Donald Trump's administration seems to be pushing the war on drugs with a renewed enthusiasm.
But not all hot takes are created equal. Depending on a person's profile or platform, some can be far more damaging than others. Without further adieu, here's a handy shortlist of some of the worst ones we've seen in recent years:
Admittedly, Marc Emery, Canadian cannabis activist, knows a lot about pot; fighting for its legalization has been his life's work. But this week, in response to the government's proposed overhaul of impaired driving laws, Emery told Global that pot actually makes you a better driver.
"This idea, one of the many myths I have to clear out in the next 18 months, is that pot impairs you. Marijuana makes you more self-aware of your situation, so you'll be a better driver if you smoke pot regularly."
Now, there are definitely potential issues with proposed Canadian regulations, which include fines and up to ten years of prison time for testing positive for five or more nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood within two hours of driving. Officials have said it's hard to assess how much THC results in impairment, further complicated by individual tolerance and metabolism.
And there are studies that show that alcohol causes far worse a driving impairment than weed.
But claiming weed makes everyone a better driver seems like a stretch. The safest bet, obviously, is to drive sober. Lulling people into thinking they might enhance their driving skills by taking a psychoactive substance is irresponsible, especially when young drivers are already statistically more likely to get into crashes, and realistically, they're probably going to have a lower pot tolerance than someone who has been blazing for 50 years.
US attorney general Jeff Sessions (who is definitely not down with sessions) told a crowd of law enforcement officials last month that marijuana is "only slightly less awful" than heroin.
Here's the full statement:
"I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that's only slightly less awful."
Let's compare. Weed has killed zero people. You cannot overdose on weed. While some people can become dependent on weed, it is not highly addictive and physical withdrawal symptoms are very rare.
Heroin is an opioid. In 2015, 33,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose. Meanwhile Canada is currently in the grips of a fentanyl crisis; drug overdoses were responsible for 922 deaths in 2016 in British Columbia alone—575 were caused by fentanyl.
America and Canada are the top two consumers of opioids in the world. And much of that stems from doctors' painkiller prescriptions (e.g. Oxycontin) that later led patients to become addicted. To that end, research shows that opioids are not a good treatment for long-term chronic pain, but cannabis could be and it is far less harmful.
To be fair, this one is from January, but it is one of my favorite bad weed takes.
Writing in the Calgary Herald, Barry Cooper, a political science professor from the University of Calgary, said we should look to BC as a cautionary tale of all the ways pot can destroy a society.
How did he reach that conclusion?
Well, he went to an Abbotsford steakhouse and ordered a bad steak and determined that his server and the manager were "stoned." Then he complained that there are too many dispensaries and the "Vancouver police don't bother to enforce what is still Canadian law." From there, he leaped into the opioid crisis, stating: "There is also a gloomy side to the drug scene in BC" That's true, but he didn't explain what weed had to do with it.
Cooper ended by speculating that weed use was behind a spike in bizarre 911 calls in BC, noting that one caller asked for advice on how to turn off his razor and another wanted help getting his drone out of a tree.
"It was unclear whether these emergencies involved pot or just stupidity," he wrote. I'm unclear as to how any of the things he complained about are relevant to his thesis.
I think there are probably a lot of terrified parents who can relate to this op-ed, which claims that weed legalization in Canada will be a "national disaster."
Written by Benjamin Anson for the Montreal Gazette, it is the height of pearl-clutching, "think of the children!" hysteria.
Anson assumes that weed going legit will cause "untold suffering for countless families in the form of impaired driving accidents, workplace accidents, and adverse health consequences."
As mentioned earlier, driving drunk is worse than driving baked (even if the latter isn't recommended.)
Anson believes the easy access to bud will encourage dealers to focus on selling weed to children, since the adult market will use dispensaries.
"The youth market is particularly price sensitive and will be excellent customers for the illegal growers and pushers," he writes. (By "pushers," we assume he means gangsters in stairwells.)
He may have a point that the black market could undercut the legal regime, but it seems a bit premature to assume that kids are going to be the primary target. Not to mention Canadian teens lead the world in smoking pot, so clearly they already know how to get their hands on it.
Anson claims the anti-drug and anti-tobacco efforts are going to be "set back by light years." On the contrary, the evidence suggests we should've gotten rid of prohibition decades ago.
Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens, a self-described "big guy," recently told the Windsor Star he was nervous about all the "riffraff" he saw while visiting a Denver dispensary last summer.
The dispensary was run efficiently, he said, but on the streets, he apparently witnessed "a lot of erratic behavior."
"The riffraff and the undesirables were rampant. I was looking behind my back as I was walking because some of these people truly concerned me. These were very aggressive people." He said he was concerned legalization could bring about the same impact at home.
It's impossible to know exactly what Dilkens saw, but the implication that people who use drugs are "undesirables" is not cool—they are already highly stigmatized.
Maybe Dilkens should focus on improving his own city's reputation.