Stop Demonizing Marijuana [OPINION]

Carson Shoemaker, Writer

Photo Credit: Roberto Scandola (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The dose makes the poison — an idea founded by Paracelsus, the father of toxicology. 

That’s the idea that everything is poison at a certain dose. Nothing is without poison. This  concept extends to everything from strychnine and antifreeze, to things that we consider to be entirely benign like oxygen, water, and salt. They all have lethal doses and it might take a lot less than you’d think. 

From a very young age, the education system drills in the “fact” that ALL drugs are bad into our young and malleable brains. They make sure to thoroughly demonize them. Some of this information may be helpful for educating about the dangers of addiction of more deadly drugs, such as heroin, prescription painkillers, and other habit forming chemicals. There is, however,  one drug that has been the victim of an extreme misinformation campaign since 1970, when it was outlawed by the controlled substances act: Tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.  

We’re all familiar with propaganda films like “Reefer Madness,” anti-marijuana ad campaigns like the infamous one with the deflated girl on the couch, and perhaps the most significant piece of propaganda perpetuated by the government: the blatant lie that cannabis is a gateway drug. In fact, areas that have access to medical cannabis have lower rates of opiate abuse. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this misinformation campaign is that it was never about the safety of citizens at all. It was entirely fueled by racism against Hispanic immigrants who smoked the plant as part of their culture.

In my own experiences with the education system, the above information holds true. I was required to take health class in both 7th and 10th grade, and in each the educator made sure to spend a whole unit dedicated to marijuana and it’s “extreme dangers”. It was constantly repeated that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to severe drug abuse and addiction. Specifically I recall being shown materials from Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign from the 80’s, as well as being told horror stories about people that have accidentally killed themselves while high on cannabis. 

The unfortunate part about this propaganda-filled curriculum is that it doesn’t properly educate students about proper harm reduction techniques that can lead to safe and effective use of the cannabis plant.

Because of this education, I was scared of marijuana and even criticized my peers for using the plant; however, this changed when I was recommended medical marijuana by my therapist as a possible treatment for my PTSD. I began to do in depth research about the plant and its medicinal benefits, and quickly learned how much of the information I thought I knew about marijuana was wrong. While I cannot recommend nor condone anyone going out and trying marijuana, especially if you are below the legal age, I can attest to its medical benefits. Through its use, I have completely eliminated my depressive episodes and have stopped experiencing ptsd nightmares which has led to an increased quality of sleep and mood. I am currently pursuing my medical card for my PTSD.

The demonization of marijuana in the education system is a dangerous propagation of misinformation that misrepresents the medical applications of the plant and its cannabinoids, and stands in the way of federal legalization, and its potential to treat psychiatric disorders and illnesses such as aids and cancer. Hopefully within the next decade, we will see federal legalization, and large scale drug law reform, but until then, many people will have to continue using this medicine in secret.