Myths about marijuana debunked

Reefer Madness and things like it helped to perpetuate myths about pot.
Reefer Madness and things like it helped to perpetuate myths about pot.

As a shaggy-haired kid sitting in a circle with friends, the wild assertions abounded about the herb people were inhaling. The one that stuck with me most was that smoking marijuana would lead to ball cancer.

As in testicular cancer.

That was around 2009, when a Seattle-based study linking "soaring marijuana use" and increased incidences of a particular type of testicular cancer was published. Researchers cautioned that the link was only a "hypothesis" and needed further exploration.

A more recent review of studies from the 1990s found that "those using cannabis on at least a weekly basis had two-and-a-half times greater odds" of developing that particular type of testicular cancer.

Still, for as long as people have smoked it, myths about marijuana have stuck around. Here are a few more we've found to be not so credible.

MYTH: Four-twenty is cop code for pot

It's totally believable that punky stoner kids who overhear the fuzz mumble "four-twenty" in a radio whilst also grinding the joint they just confiscated under their boot heel would reclaim the phrase. But the actual origin of the official stoner holiday (April 20) is more unlikely.

It's not Bob Marley's birthday (but it is Hitler's birthday), it's not the number of chemical compounds in marijuana and it's not the sum of the numbers in that one Bob Dylan song multiplied. In fact, the official origin, identified just last year in the Oxford English Dictionary, is a group of bell-bottomed stoner kids in San Rafael, California. The group would pass each other in the hallway and whisper "4:20" to each other as reminders to meet up after school and spark a doobie.

MYTH: Weed is not addictive

Earlier this year, the Atlantic published a groundbreaking story challenging the notion that weed is not addictive. Smokers and former smokers describe debilitating effects and an inability to quit.

"If not necessarily because of legalization, but alongside legalization, such problems are becoming more common," the author, Annie Lowrey, writes. She cites the National Institutes of Health, which report that the share of adults with marijuana-use disorder has doubled since the early aughts. 

MYTH: Good people don't smoke marijuana

These are words from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, if you follow President Trump on Twitter, has more to worry about than legalized weed.

MYTH: Marijuana causes man boobs

First of all, what the hell, CNN?

In 2013 the network published a convoluted article article by Detroit-based plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, citing a report from 1972, which "made the initial connection between cannabis and gynecomastia," the medical term for man boobs. Or moobs, if you will.

Youn acknowledges that "few studies have examined a direct causative effect" between smoking pot and moobs, and cites another study from 1977, which showed no association.

"So can smoking pot really give you man boobs?" Youn asks. "Probably."

That's quite a leap. Luckily, other outlets rushed to debunk the good doctor's claim, citing research showing "no scientific evidence" that smoking weed will give you man boobs. ♦

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.