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Facts & Myths

Myth: Marijuana Offenses Are Not Severely Punished. Few marijuana law violators are arrested and hardly anyone goes to prison. This lenient treatment is responsible for marijuana continued availability and use.

Fact: Marijuana arrests in the United States doubled between 1991 and 1995. In 1995, more than one-half-million people were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-six percent of them were arrested for marijuana possession. Tens of thousands of people are now in prison for marijuana offenses. An even greater number are punished with probation, fines, and civil sanctions, including having their property seized, their driver's license revoked, and their employment terminated. Despite these civil and criminal sanctions, marijuana continues to be readily available and widely used.
  • United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports for the United States. 1996. Washington: U. S. Dept. of Justice, 1997.
  • Gettman, Jon B. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Crimes of Indescretion: Marijuana arrests in the United States. Washington: NORML, 2005.
  • Marijuana Policy Project. Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License. July 1995 Status Report. Washington: MPP, 1995.
  • Treaster, J. “Miami Beach’s New Drug Weapon Will Fire Off Letters to the Employer” New York Times 23 February 1991: A9.
  • Reed, T.G. “American Forfeiture Law: Property Owners Meet the Prosecutor.” Policy Analysis 179 (1992): 1-32.
Myth: Marijuana is More Damaging to the Lungs Than Tobacco. Marijuana smokers are at a high risk of developing lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema.

Fact: Moderate smoking of marijuana appears to pose minimal danger to the lungs. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains a number of irritants and carcinogens. But marijuana users typically smoke much less often than tobacco smokers, and over time, inhale much less smoke. As a result, the risk of serious lung damage should be lower in marijuana smokers. There have been no reports of lung cancer related solely to marijuana, and in a large study presented to the American Thoracic Society in 2006, even heavy users of smoked marijuana were found not to have any increased risk of lung cancer. Unlike heavy tobacco smokers, heavy marijuana smokers exhibit no obstruction of the lung's small airway. That indicates that people will not develop emphysema from smoking marijuana.
  • Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “Legalization: Panacea or Pandora’s Box.” New York. (1995): 36.
  • Turner, Carlton E. The Marijuana Controversy. Rockville: American Council for Drug Education, 1981.
  • Nahas, Gabriel G. and Nicholas A. Pace. Letter. “Marijuana as Chemotherapy Aid Poses Hazards.” New York Times 4 December 1993: A20.
  • Inaba, Darryl S. and William E. Cohen. Uppers, Downers, All-Arounders: Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. 2nd ed. Ashland: CNS Productions, 1995. 174.
More Marijuana MythsMarijuana Has No Medicinal Value

1. Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug
2. Marijuana's Harms Have Been Proved Scientifically
3. Marijuana Causes an Amotivational Syndrome
4. Marijuana Policy in the Netherlands is a Failure
5. Marijuana Kills Brain Cells
6. Marijuana Impairs Memory and Cognition
7. Marijuana Causes Crime
8. Marijuana Interferes With Male and Female Sex Hormones
9. Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Damages the Fetus
10. Marijuana Use Impairs the Immune System
11. Marijuana's Active Ingredient, THC, Gets Trapped in Body Fat
12. Marijuana Use is a Major Cause Of Highway Accidents
13. Marijuana Related Hospital Emergencies Are Increasing, Particularly Among Youth
14. Marijuana Use Can Be Prevented

Myth: Marijuana Has No Medicinal Value. Safer, more effective drugs are available. They include a synthetic version of THC, marijuana's primary active ingredient, which is marketed in the United States under the name Marinol.

Fact: Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders. A synthetic capsule is available by prescription, but it is not as effective as smoked marijuana for many patients. Pure THC may also produce more unpleasant psychoactive side effects than smoked marijuana. Many people use marijuana as a medicine today, despite its illegality. In doing so, they risk arrest and imprisonment.
  • Vinciguerra, Vincent; Moore, Terry and Eileen Brennan. “Inhalation marijuana as an antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy.” New York State Journal of Medicine 85 (1988): 525-27.
  • McCabe M, Smith FP, Macdonald JS. “Efficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol in patients refractory to standard antiemetic therapy.” Investigational New Drugs 6.3 (1988): 243-46.
  • Gorter, R., et al. “Dronabionol effects on weight in patients with HIV infection.” 1992. AIDS 6 (1992):127-38.
  • Foltin, R.W., et al. “Behavioral analysis of marijuana effects on food intake in humans.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 25 (1986): 577-82.
  • Crawford, W.J. and Merritt, J.C. “Effect of tetrahydrocannabinol on Arterial and Intraocular Hypertension.” International Journal of Clinical of Pharmacology and Biopharmaceuticals 17 (1979):191-96.
  • Merritt, J.C., et al. “Effects of marijuana on intraocular and blood pressure on glaucoma.” Ophthamology 87 (1980):222-28.
  • Baker, D., Gareth Pryce and J. Ludovic Croxford. “Cannabinoids control spasticity and tremor in a multiple sclerosis model.” Nature 404.6773 (2000): 84-7.
  • Hanigan, W.C., et al. “The Effect of Delta-9-THC on Human Spasticity.” Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 39 (1986):198.
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