Cannabis Myths Persist, Fueled by its Forbidden Flower Status

Sometimes the cannabis Internet seems a bit too much like hanging out with Slater in the movie Dazed and Confused: passionate, but not always on the mark.

By way of example, in one scene, Slater, the most enthusiastic pothead in the film, insists George Washington grew his own weed at Mount Vernon, and that the father of our country was in fact a big stoner.

“He grew it all over the country, man. He had people growin' it all over the country, you know,” Slater says. “The whole country back then was gettin' high. Lemme tell you, man, 'cause he knew he was onto somethin', man. He knew that it would be a good cash crop for the Southern states, man, so he grew fields of it, man. But you know what? Behind every good man there's a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and every day, George would come home, she'd have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he'd come in the door. She was a hip, a hip, hip lady, man.”

Sadly, it has to be pointed out here that none of that is true.

Washington, and many other farmers at the time, grew hemp, but the notion of smoking weed was essentially absent in colonial America. Incredibly, despite having been mocked in a popular movie 27 years ago, this myth—and many like it—persist, thanks to social media giving every person a voice in the discourse.

Sometimes, the myths come in the form of a full, Slater-like declaration, but more often than not, it’s slightly more sly: Twitter is filled with people declaring that “George Washington grew cannabis,” for instance. And while technically true (hemp is a form of cannabis), the lack of context makes clear what these people are trying, for whatever reason, to get across.

The world of cannabis is filled with such nonsense, from bizarre health claims to the insistence that hemp will “save the world.”

When the Covid pandemic hit the U.S., out came the people who insisted that cannabis could “cure” the virus. As recounted in this space at the time, the people making this claim ranged from marginal randos with eight followers to ex-NFL player Kyle Turley, who reportedly resigned from his cannabis business after multiple complaints that he was selling CBD as a Covid-19 cure.

Of course, the prohibitionists have plenty of persistent myths of their own, like the one about how cannabis use turns people into murderous psychopaths, or how it causes male sterility. Anyone who follows cannabis discussions online is bound to come across an example of this insanity—either pro- or anti-cannabis—within an hour of logging on.

One meme that got heavy rotation on social media a few years ago explained that, “it’s common knowledge that wars are fought over oil. What’s not common knowledge is that hemp can do anything oil does, which means legalizing cannabis could literally stop wars.”

The knowledge is common, all right, but presumably not in the sense meant by the meme-maker.

The fact that hemp was illegal for 81 years up until three years ago was, of course, ludicrous, and hemp is a highly useful, versatile crop. But the only reason it attracted “activism”-minded types at all was the same as the reason it was outlawed in the first place: its relationship to marijuana. Hemp is just cannabis that doesn’t get you high. It’s hard to imagine a whole huge movement devoted to legalizing jute or sawgrass if, for some reason, those crops were outlawed.

Hemp advocacy online seems to have died down somewhat since the crop was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Presumably, the same will happen with pot after it’s inevitably legalized at the federal level. Most of the weird, almost religious totemism that surrounds cannabis—the crazy claims, the memes, the dorm posters and the pot-leaf belt buckles—comes from the fact that it’s illegal. Once it becomes just another part of everyday life, the incentive to fetishize it will mostly vanish.

Maybe the pot lobby should raise this point with lawmakers.

15 Comments

  1. Alcohol and cigarettes are legal; the fact that they cause significant harm to people has not vanished! People why you could not relax, feel high, happy, or in the mood without these substances? Maybe we live in the world who avoids facing difficulties and pain without the support of pain relievers and other substances. Maybe we live in a world where people self-medicate their mental struggles with substances instead of reaching out for help. There is very little research on the side effects of Marijuanna. Just because something is legal, it does not mean is safe. Pornography is legal, the harm of this habit to males’ brain is well known. Women, males with this habit are terrible lovers who need extra support to feel passionate. They typically hide sexual issues. If they need extra sexual stimulation, it means they lack sexual potential. Heavy smokers of cigarettes and marijuana are typically very anxious individuals with underlying anxious disorders. Long term heavy smokers of marijuana tend to develop psychotic symptoms. Marijuana is typically the first substance used by youths who eventually use as many as ten substances. All these based on work with people with these lifestyles and conditions. Men more than women try to mask their psychological shortcomings. Marijuana use for those with HIV, epilepsy…for sue. It helps them to feel hungry and increase their quality of life. Medical marijuana for these medical conditions is good. Recreational marijuana is just big business for the marijuana advocates including politicians.

  2. The good parts . . .

    1.) “There is very little research on the side effects of Marijuanna. Just because something is legal, it does not mean is safe.”

    There’s abundant data that says it ISN’T safe.

    2.) “Marijuana is typically the first substance used by youths who eventually use as many as ten substances.”

    The most intensive users of cigarettes appear to be junior high school age adolescents. It is a tribal symbol of adulthood and self-determination. Legal marijuana will be perceived by adolescents the same way Even if it is legally proscribed, adolescents will probably be the biggest users of marijuana.

    3.) “Recreational marijuana is just big business for the marijuana advocates including politicians.”

    The radio airwaves are full of “public service ads” condemning the tobacco industry for targeting the youth. Who do you think the marijuana industry is going to target?

  3. Ah, ye old “gateway” drug myth. How many people I knew when young used pot? Pretty much everyone. How many went on to become herion addicts? Pretty much 0% of them.

  4. The gateway claim is no more a myth than is the claim that beer is a gateway to hard liquor. Percentage-wise, few marijuana smokers go on to use heroin, but I’ve never known a heroin user (and I’ve known hundreds) who did not start with marijuana.

    We need neither myths nor science to know what has been there to see for decades, and that is the connection between marijuana use and under-performing students/unproductive young people. Pot smoking has, for far too many, evolved from an occasional, rebellious indulgence into something indistinguishable from a lifestyle. The image of the lazy, befuddled “pot-head” did not enter the public consciousness courtesy of Hollywood or the GOP, it came about through the observation of, concern for, and frustration over seeing generations of young people squander their youth and productive adult years living a Beavis and Butthead existence while worshiping a stinking weed.

    Granted, it very well could be the case that many of these burnouts were losers-in-the-making before they discovered marijuana, but liberal society’s support of their penchant for surrounding themselves in clouds of smoke hasn’t made their escape from uselessness any more likely.

  5. Whatever. My main thing is that no one’s life is improved or made better by being thrust into the maws of the criminal justice system over using a stinking weed. If people want to do this go right ahead (as long as you don’t drive), it’s supposed to be a free country. What is it about this that brings out all the Carrie Nations?

  6. I want medical marijuana to be legal and regulated and available at pharmacies where we buy all other medicines. They should be available by prescription of our regular doctors not on sale at “marijuana dispensaries…” The Marijuanna industry in not regulated; even minors buy it there. Politicians advocating for these marijuana businesses are the same that obtain donations from people who profit from it. Free country does not mean to have freedom to destroy the children of that country by targeting its youths! Enough with thus BS! The most important responsibility of any society is to protect those that will be its future and those who created the present (children and seniors) and those with impaired ability to protect themselves (disabilities). Alcohol, cigarettes, and porn should be illegal too! But, OMG we created three monsters who are too powerful now!

  7. > What is it about this that brings out all the Carrie Nations?

    If we were a pure libertarian society, people would be TOTALLY responsible for their own bad decisions.

    We would have to accept the reality of miserable wretches lying in the gutters and people telling them “it’s your own damn fault”. Instead, we vote for big hearted politicians who are going to use government “to do something”, meaning make innocent taxpayers pay for the irresponsible wretches.

    Legalizing marijuana and other “recreational drugs” just allows the pitiful wretches and drug profiteers to get their greedy, slimy fingers on my wallet.

  8. “My main thing is that no one’s life is improved or made better by being thrust into the maws of the criminal justice system over using a stinking weed.” “Good grief, I give up. Will someone please think of the children?” — XBR976

    My primary concern is for the children, whose brains we have every reason to believe are uniquely susceptible to structural change from marijuana use. Consider (from Scientific American):

    “recent studies show that cannabinoids manufactured by our own nerve cells play a crucial role in wiring the brain, both prenatally and during adolescence. Throughout life they regulate appetite, sleep, emotion, memory and movement—which makes sense when you consider the effects of marijuana. There are “huge changes” in the concentration of these endocannabinoids during the teenage years, according to neurologist Yasmin Hurd of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai…”

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-pot-really-does-to-the-teen-brain/

    Tragically, these same young minds are also exceptionally vulnerable to the asinine influences of the entertainment and liberal communities that have celebrated and even glamorized marijuana use, elevating it from what it actually is, a risking and undesirable choice, to what it certainly is not, a harmless credential of rebellious sophistication and social cool.

  9. Well, in legal states one has to be 21 to buy and use. So it isn’t legal for children anywhere. I sort of think parents have some responsibility for children also. No one I knew who used marijuana as a young person ended up in the gutter. Mostly normal folks today. Not hard to stop using if that’s what you want to do. You guys in here are overreacting–do you really think legalization has that much impact on usage? I don’t think it’s really changed things that much.

  10. XBR876, I have worked with youths who use substances. Drug addiction does not discriminate and it affects all socioeconomic status. The difference is that those youths with parents with more resources go to private rehabs and do not wait in line for treatment. All parents suffer the same when their children have these conditions. Have you ever heard of the “it takes a village to raise a child”?Parents have responsibility but communities and societies too. You are correct, people have to be 21 years of age to have access to these substances, so how come youths have had plenty of access to these substances? I know the answers because they have told me. My clients have been in the 12-19 age range. The marijuana industry is not regulated! It cost more money to pay daily rehab for each of these children than to pay them a stay (daily rate) at a five start hotel. I can see you are running out of excuses to continue advocating for legalization and cultural acceptance of recreational marijuana. [email protected] the marijuana industry! Children are first not profits.

  11. on the one hand, in our country you can smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, which, according to official research, are even more harmful than marijuana, and if people legally relax with beer and cigarettes, then why is everyone still so against it all? But on the other hand, all adolescents who start smoking marijuana, then start trying something else, and not all then can stop … This is a double-edged sword … But people who do not know how to control themselves can do legally and just become alcoholics, because alcohol is relaxing too. so I don’t even know how to sum it up

  12. > you can smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, which, according to official research, are even more harmful than marijuana,

    Tobacco is bad for you and bad for kids. Nicotine is powerfully addictive.
    Alcohol is bad for you and bad for kids. Alcohol is powerfully addictive.
    Marijuana is bad for you and bad for kids. It is psychoactive and addictive, at least for some people. It causes physiological changes.

    Warning labels tell pregnant women not to use marijuana.

    Important safety tip: don’t use drugs with warning labels.

  13. Except marijuana is clearly NOT addictive in the sense that Nicotine and Alcohol are. One will not have withdrawals if one stops using it. That’s why most people I know who imbibed on a semi-regular basis when young had no trouble stopping 100% if they wanted or needed to stop. That’s not easy to do with other drugs. The addiction (for some people) you write off is a not a physical addiction. Anything can be addicting–good or bad–in a psychological sense.

    I think proponents claims for MJ’s magical properties are mostly hucksterism. I don’t think anything more than occasional usage is going to be a negative factor in most people’s lives. If I had my own company, for instance, I wouldn’t want my employees getting stoned every night. I told my son (at a high priced private college) that if he wanted to “party” a lot, just to do it at a lower cost state school (however, lucky for me, he doesn’t drink or toke–just not interested).

    I just don’t like the hypocrisy and hysterics about MJ that I’ve seen all my life. It just hasn’t squared with my own personal experience with it. Never agreed that it is/was a legitimate function of law enforcement to get involved in what’s a personal behavior decision.

  14. If my personal behavior decision negatively impacts the wellbeing of others, then it is a public concern. Useless to keep discussions with you XBR976. You do not have a brain but a butthead!