Dispelling the Marijuana Myth

By George Biernson
BS, MS Massachusetts Institute of Technology; January, 2000
In considering the claim that marijuana is useful in treating AIDS patients, a fundamental issue arises. Why have the severe effects of marijuana in weakening the immune system not been recognized in efforts to combat AIDS? As reported in Science News the rate at which a person infected by the AIDS virus progresses from the HIV-positive state to the condition defined as AIDS varies greatly among different individuals, and many HIV-positive individuals may never develop AIDS. Clearly the health of the immune system is an important factor in this process.

Why has there not been a study to investigate the effect that marijuana may have on the rate at which the immune system degrades in patients who are HIV positive?

Brain Damage Produced by Cocaine

This document has concentrated on the harmful effects of marijuana, because this drug is the fundamental cause of the drug epidemic. Nevertheless, it is prudent to review evidence that cocaine also does serious damage to the human brain, so that youngsters will have all the more reason to reject cocaine.

As reported in 1990, brain scans were employed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts to measure blood flow in the brains of cocaine users. Radioactive iodine was injected into the blood, and a three-dimensional projection of the emission from the iodine in the brain was obtained from single photon-emission computed tomography (SPECT). The SPECT display was sensitive to the rate of blood flow in different regions of the brain.

The results were displayed in a dramatic video tape, prepared by English and Holman . The brain scans for all of the regular cocaine users, even those who took cocaine lightly, showed voids in the brain where blood flow was very low. The brain scan of one subject, who used cocaine heavily, had so many voids his brain image looked like Swiss cheese. Yet, this heavy cocaine user was still a functioning individual, who held a full-time job, and so might superficially seem to be using cocaine safely.

This study proved that cocaine cannot be used in moderation. Even in light cocaine users, cocaine drastically reduces blood flow in significant regions of the brain, and so must seriously harm the brain. A copy of this video tape ought to be shown in all drug education programs.
Up to a few years ago, both cocaine and marijuana were widely claimed to be ‘safe, non-addictive drugs’ by many so-called drug abuse ‘experts’. Medical evidence proves that it is physically impossible for anyone to use either marijuana or cocaine in moderation because regular use of either drug, even in modest amounts, produces serious brain damage.


Mark Twain once said: “It ain’t what you don know that hurts you. It’s what you do know that ain’t so.” This is an ideal motto to characterize our failure to stop the drug epidemic.

In the late 1960’so many so-called “experts” on drug abuse expounded the Marijuana Myth, claiming that marijuana is a soft drug, very much less dangerous than heroin, and no more harmful than alcohol.

The Marijuana myth is based on a gross misinterpretation of the effects of marijuana which fails to recognize that THC the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is strongly fat soluble, and so is extremely slow acting. Although THC is highly potent, it appears to be mild because it acts so slowly.

The facts show that all arguments supporting the Marijuana myth are fallacious. Scientific medical evidence proves that marijuana is a very dangerous drug, at least as harmful as heroin.

Marijuana itself causes serious damage to the brain and to other elements of the body. Besides, it is a deceptive trap that often lures an unsuspecting casual user into escalating drug abuse, which typically includes other illegal psychoactive drugs and heavy alcohol drinking.

The Marijuana myth was broadly accepted by the public, and this led to extensive marijuana use, particularly by the young. Drug education programs were set up to combat the resultant drug epidemic. However, most of these programs have endorsed the Marijuana Myth, and fail because they are faced with an impossible task. ‘They try to teach kids to keep away from drugs, while supporting the claim that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol.

Drug educators often teach that “All psychoactive drugs, including alcohol, are equally bad”. But the kids know that many people use alcohol without harm, and this often includes the drug educator himself. Since marijuana and alcohol are equally bad’, the kids frequently conclude that marijuana is no worse than alcohol, and like alcohol can be taken safely if used in moderation.

Regardless of how strongly one preaches “Say No to drugs!”, some kids will experiment with pot if they believe it is relatively harmless. They make the classic statement ‘Since my parents (or other adults that I know) are able to drink alcohol without harm, I should be able to smoke a little pot safely’.

The fat-soluble THC gradually builds up in the bodies of the kids experimenting with pot, and drags them into a trap. More and more kids are drawn, into this maelstrom, as the pot smokers induce others to try their harmless drug, often to provide money to support their steadily escalating desire for pot and other drugs.

Eventually, the damage that marijuana is doing to the pot smokers becomes apparent to their associates and so the other kids learn from direct experience to leave marijuana alone. It is my belief that direct experience is what is saving most young people from drug abuse, not drug education. Unfortunately, this direct experience requires that the lives of the pot smokers be sacrificed in order to educate the rest.

The Marijuana myth is widely believed today for many reasons. Regular pot smokers form a strong body of foot soldiers who are quick to support their favourite drug. Behind them is the disguised propaganda, spread by the very sophisticated and rich leaders illegal drug dealing. These efforts of confusion are magnified by a great many others, who, out of ignorance, are very reluctant to think that their concept of marijuana can be so fallacious.

Many people have experimented lightly with marijuana and luckily escaped without serious harm. They do not want to admit that they played around with a very dangerous drug. How can the harmless ‘grass’ they toyed with be as damaging as is charged? Obviously, they feel, anyone who says that marijuana is highly dangerous must be exaggerating.

A fallacious claim often made to support the Marijuana Myth is that many responsible people have been able to smoke marijuana for long periods without apparent harm. The answer to this claim is that it is very difficult to determine in a specific case how much marijuana a person has smoked, and how much harm it has caused. Remember that the primary damage that marijuana does to the brain occurs in the deep limbic region which controls the emotions. Consequently, a person can appear to be intellectually competent, yet be severely damaged emotionally by his use of marijuana.

A few years ago, Abbie Hoffman wrote a book extolling the virtues of marijuana and telling the readers how to deceive a drug test. Superficially it might appear that marijuana had not harmed him. However, a little later he committed suicide.

The potency of available pot has increased enormously since the 1960 from 1% THC (or less) to as high as 25% today. Hence, the destruction from marijuana is now progressing at a much faster rate. School children today are being seriously harmed by marijuana, even at early grades. It is essential that we discard the gross misconceptions of this drug and give an honest picture a drug education classes.

When our young people are taught the scientific truths about marijuana very few will touch it and our drug epidemic will end.



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