10 Marijuana Myths Advocates Want You to Believe

By Dr. Christine Miller, Ph.D.
Myth #1. It is rare for marijuana users to experience psychotic symptoms like paranoia.
In fact, about 15% of all users and a much higher percentage of heavy users will experience psychotic symptoms.1 Half of those individuals will become chronically schizophrenic if they don’t stop using.2 Fortunately, some do stop using because psychosis is not pleasant and they wisely recognize that pot caused their problems.
Myth #2. Marijuana-induced psychosis must be due to other contaminating drugs.
Clinical studies under controlled laboratory conditions have shown that administering the pure, active ingredient of pot, ∆9-THC, elicits psychotic symptoms in normal volunteers.3  In addition, epidemiological research of nearly 19,000 drug abusing Finnish subjects showed that it was not LSD, amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP or opiates that most consistently led to a diagnosis of long term schizophrenia, it was marijuana.4 Thus, if you lace your LSD with marijuana, you are more likely to go psychotic.
Myth #3.  If marijuana is associated with the development of chronic psychosis (schizophrenia), it is only because the patients are self-medicating. Correlation does not equal causation.
Actually, four studies have been carried out in Europe to ask the question which comes first, the marijuana use or the schizophrenia. The research was designed to follow thousands of young teen subjects through a course of several years of their lives, and to ask if those who were showing symptoms of psychosis at study onset were more likely to begin smoking pot, or were those who were normal but began smoking pot during the course of the study more likely to become psychotic. Three of the studies5 convincingly showed that the evidence for marijuana triggering schizophrenia was strong, whereas the evidence for self-medication was weak. The fourth concluded that both were happening — marijuana was triggering psychosis and psychotic individuals were self-medicating.6
Myth #4. Those who become schizophrenic from marijuana use were destined to become so anyway because of their genes.
The truth of the matter is that no one is destined to become schizophrenic. Even in the case where one member of an identical pair of twins has schizophrenia, only about half the time does the other twin become schizophrenic as well.7  Thus, there is ample room for environmental factors like marijuana to make a difference between leading a normal life and not.
Myth #5. Studies showing links between marijuana and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia are “cherry picked” to exclude negative studies.
A very large review of all relevant published papers was conducted by a group of researchers from around the world and published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet. No attempt was made to exclude results that were negative. The results they obtained by merging all the studies was that marijuana use approximately doubles the risk for schizophrenia.8 Later research has shown that the risk goes up to 6-fold if the use is heavy or if the pot is strong 9 (similar to the strength of marijuana that is coming out of Colorado now).
Myth #6. Marijuana makes you mellow and less aggressive.
This is certainly not the case for the 15% who experience psychotic symptoms and the subgroup who then go on to develop a chronic psychosis. These individuals are up to 9-times more likely to commit serious acts of violence than people whose schizophrenia has nothing to do with drug use.10 Just a few of the very recent high profile cases here on the East Coast include January’s Columbia Mall shooter Darion Aguilar and “multiverse”-ranting Vladimir Baptiste, who drove a truck through a Towson, MD TV station in May. Somewhat less violent cases include White House episodes: Oscar Ortega, charged with shooting at the White House, ex-Navy Seal employee David Gil Wilkerson charged with threatening the life of the President and most recently, fence jumper Dominic Adesanya who is charged with attacking the White House guard dogs this October. In the Rocky Mountain region, soccer dad Richard Kirk became psychotic after his first use of marijuana edibles for his back pain, and while hallucinating that the world was going to end, shot his wife to death as his children listened through a closed door.On the West Coast, the mentally ill marijuana user Aaron Ybarra shot one student dead and wounded two others on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. In Ottawa this past week, rifleman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was originally thought to have terrorist ties after he killed a young guard at the Capitol, but instead his friends paint a picture of psychosis and law enforcement records reveal more than one arrest for marijuana possession. All of these individuals exhibited psychotic symptoms prior to their acts and their mental illness could be traced to their marijuana habit in my opinion.
Myth #7. Marijuana is good for the symptoms of PTSD and by keeping this drug from our veterans, we are depriving them of an important alternative treatment.
Veterans Affairs Administration studies have shown that those with PTSD who smoke marijuana make significantly less progress in overcoming their condition.11  PTSD victims are already more vulnerable to psychosis and it comes as no surprise that clinicians have witnessed psychotic breaks in PTSD patients who begin marijuana12 because of the abundant literature showing an association between marijuana use and the subsequent development of psychosis. While the symptoms that afflict PTSD patients (anxiety, depression, panic) may be temporarily relieved while the subjects are “high”, these very same symptoms are exacerbated in the long run.13  Even in the context of polydrug use, it is the degree of marijuana use that correlates most significantly with anxiety and depression.14
Myth #8. Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and will reduce alcohol consumption, so we’ll end up with safer roadways.
In terms of mental health, marijuana is more dangerous on all counts (depression, anxiety, panic, psychosis, mania). As far as our roadways go, marijuana all by itself impairs driving. Whether it is better or the same as alcohol in that regard is still a matter of debate. What is known is that users all too frequently do both, and this combination is particularly hazardous. The interaction between the two drugs is synergistic,15 not additive.  So you end up with someone who is wildly impaired.
Myth #9. Laws don’t make a difference to rates of marijuana use
Some of the best data available on youth use in regards to laws comes from Europe, where they have a wide range of marijuana laws between the countries. The European organization ESPAD has studied youth use (15 to 16 year olds) across different countries every four years. The two most recent ESPAD reports (2007 and 2011) show that countries with legalization or defacto legalization (The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain) have on average a 3-fold higher rate of youth use than countries in which it has remained illegal. In our country, differences in decriminalization laws have existed between states for several years. If you break out the states with lenient decriminalization laws that also submit data to the CDC to track youth use (CO, AK, MA, ME), their rate of youth use (9-12th grade) is significantly higher (~25% higher) than states that have strict decriminalization codes and report to the CDC. Lenient codes include a low civil fine with no increase in penalties for repeat offenders, no requirement for drug education, no requirement for drug treatment, and no community service. Outright legalization and dedicated recreational pot shops in this country has not been around long enough for the effect on youth use to be determined.
Myth #10. The Drug War on marijuana is too expensive.
It is hard to put a price on the damage done to someone’s life if they develop a chronic psychosis like schizophrenia or psychotic bipolar disorder. But if economics must be considered, the cost of just schizophrenia alone to our country is approximately $64 billion per year, accounting for treatment, housing and lost productivity.16 If all adults were exchange their glass of wine or two over the weekend for a joint or two, our rate of schizophrenia would be expected to double. That $64 billion per year would pay for the drug war on marijuana and much more.
Brief Bio for the author:   Dr. Christine L. Miller obtained her B.S. degree in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. For over twenty years she has researched the molecular neuroscience of schizophrenia, ten of those years at Johns Hopkins University.  She is semi-retired, conducting occasional biomedical consulting on medical cases and an active volunteer for SAM-Maryland (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).NotPot
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    O’Kane CJ, Tutt DC, Bauer LA. Cannabis and driving: a new perspective. Emerg Med (Fremantle). 2002 Sep;14(3):296-303. Biecheler MB, Peytavin JF; Sam Group, Facy F, Martineau H. SAM survey on “drugs and fatal accidents”: search of substances consumed and comparison between drivers involved under the influence of alcohol or cannabis. Traffic Inj Prev. 2008 Mar;9(1):11-21………
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Oregon Measure 91: No Need to Add Commercial Pot Industry

“There’s little in the way Oregon handles medical marijuana that inspires confidence it could do well as a regulator of marijuana for recreational use.”  Clatsop County District Attorney argued this point in the debate of October 20, 2014 at Portland State University.  

Marijuana has been decriminalized in Oregon since 1973.   Oregon’s Measure 91 proposes to add recreational sales of marijuana , which would be in addition to the state’s large medical marijuana program.   Oregonians vote by mail and ballots are due on election day, November 4.   (See PopPot’s 1st post about Oregon, 2nd post and most recent post on Oregon.)

Oregonians voted in medical marijuana back in 1998, but the program gained about 8,900 new registrants this year.  There are at least 193 marijuana dispensaries in Oregon, and it’s quite easy to get a medical marijuana card. Marijuana is low priority for law enforcement, particularly in Portland.   There were  around 2,000 marijuana arrests last year, not more than 12,000 as stated by the Yes on 91 campaign.  It’s hardly a number that takes up too much police enforcement.

Oregonians, be careful.  Under Measure 91, new marijuana stores would be able to open in any neighborhood, unless a community gets 10% of residents to sign a petition denying it.  Please join the Vote No on 91 – Oregon campaign, and check out their news on the Vote No on 91 – Oregon Facebook page.

In Colorado, lots of communities have trouble keeping out the marijuana shops, grows and processors; politicians often listen to businesses before the residents.  As a Coloradan explained, “commercialization’s goal is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs.”     It would not lead to fewer arrests, because as DA Josh Marquis said in a debate, the 71 people in Oregon jails for marijuana-related offenses would still be in jail under Measure 91.OregonNoon91

Oregon Voters Will Decide

1) Do they want the marijuana tourism that Colorado has experienced?  Many people follow the “green rush” to get into the hot new businesses.  Those who do not find jobs end up adding to number of people seeking places at the homeless shelters, and “dumpster diving” for weed.   How strange it would be if a state that does not commercialize its beaches would commercialize sales of a drug to attract businesses to the state.

2)  Fires and explosions from butane hash oil (BHO) production sent 17 people to a Portland burn unit in a 16-month span, according the Oregonian report in May.  The BHO-explosions   caused numerous injuries, extensive property damage and at least one death in Oregon. These blasts happen when amateurs use flammables to extract hash oil from marijuana; the process is becoming more and more popular.   By May of this year, the explosions increased in Colorado by 3x what they were the previous year, up to 31.

Downloadable Fact Sheet

Get the Parents Opposed to Pot Hash Oil Facts! Download our new flyer, which describes the hash oil explosions in states which have permissive marijuana laws: POPPOT-Hash Oil Statistics.

Will the new taxes adequately cover fire protection services for these explosions? Cost of treating the burns can run over $1 million. Oregon’s only burn center could be overwhelmed, not to mention property damage.  Do the regulations adequately ban non-professionals from making BHO and other marijuana derivatives?  When the Denver mayor called a meeting in September to fine amateurs making BHO in homes, apartments and motels, there was too much objection.  Although Measure 91 says that  making marijuana derivatives at home is not allowed, this practice is extremely popular and legalization is likely to make it even more common.   The Oregonian did a series of articles on BHO production in May.

3)  Is Oregon ready to handle marijuana the fact that marijuana edibles often imitate popular children’s foods and candies?   Beginning last year in Colorado, and this year in Washington, a much larger number of children have been hospitalized.   The problems with edibles and explosions are summarized in the HIDTA report which outlines a report from Colorado released in August.

4) The taxes received are far less than expected in Colorado.  Oregon will have a lower tax rate than Colorado, around 15% rather than 40%.  A problem will emerge if users sign up for the lower cost of medical marijuana, rather than the full tax of recreation marijuana.  Black markets are still strong in Washington and Colorado.  It’s not likely to be different in Oregon.

5) A person can grow up to four plants in the home, and can possess up to 1 ounce of usable marijuana in a public place, and a person can deliver up to 1 ounce of marijuana to someone else, as long as they are over 21.   (This amount for recreational users is much more expansive than in Washington and Colorado.)  Public use and public marijuana grows will not be allowed, but in Colorado and Washington, it still happens.  Seattle has decided to stop all citations for public pot smoking.

6)  Will communities struggle to keep out marijuana businesses? One Portland neighborhood is already having a problem keeping out medical marijuana business.  Places in Colorado and Washington have been forced to go to Court, or put referendums on the ballot.

Although a judge in Fife, Washington, has agreed with residents not to allow a commercial marijuana shop, the Washington ACLU is appealing the decision, making the business interests ahead of community decisions.

7) Three children have died in Colorado, from parents who neglected them when they smoked marijuana.  A four-year old boy died while the mother smoked marijuana, in a last week in Keizer, Oregon.    It’s not clear how the fire started, but the mother was very stoned at the time.   How will Oregonians protect the children under increased marijuana usage?

DwightHolton8) Medical marijuana in Oregon is regulated by the Health Board and recreational marijuana would be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Commission.  Any criticism DA Marquis leveled at the Health Board or the Liquor Control Commission relates to the ability of regulatory authorities in keeping harmful substances away from those who should not be using.  Parents, communities, friends, etc. must have the same goal.  An industry’s input should be minimal.  As in the state of Washington, those who want to use marijuana for recreational will be tempted to get a medical marijuana card, finding it cheaper.

Measure 91 Does Not Change

The current bans on selling or giving marijuana to anyone under the age of 21 would stay in place, even if legalization is approved by voters.  Laws regarding driving under the influence will remain the same, also, although some opponents don’t think the Measure 91 goes far enough to discourage driving high on pot.

Governor John Kitzenhaber and his opponent, Dennis Richardson, advise voting against Measure 91.  Measure 91 is funded mainly by out-of-state donors, the Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Action Committee.  The campaign received another $580,000 from Drug Policy Action, in addition to the $800,000 from Drug Policy Action Committee given to Yes on 91 earlier this month.   The Yes on 91 campaign currently has over $4 million, at least  24x the amount No on 91 – Oregon has received.  Two years ago, when Measure 80 lost by 8%, the marijuana lobbyists did not fund the Oregon campaign.  They opted to finance the Washington and Colorado legalization efforts, which passed.

The suggestion that legalizing a dangerous drug to fund drug prevention and education is a bit backwards, kind of like creating a problem to solve a problem.   We  don’t believe there will be any money left to to pay for drug education, after paying for all the other services needed with regulation.

Extreme Marijuana–Dabbing and Vaping Dangers

Part 2 of 2

Parents beware, the marijuana culture is promoting extreme highs that can get your kids hurt. Vaping and dabbing are new ways to get high that are extremely sudden, dangerous and eliminate the telltale odor, making marijuana use harder to detect.

Drugs like marijuana are addictive and once a teen gets swept up into the drug subculture, over-use and abuse of drugs is likely. The search for the next big ‘high’ and the impaired judgment caused by drug use is leading some teens to go too far.

Check out this TV News Story about this issue.

Marijuana Becomes Extreme ‘Sport’

Several “weed blogs” and numerous online videos promote the popularity of dabbing.

Dabbing is inhaling the potent vapors from concentrated marijuana oil which is up to 80% THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana. In comparison, a pot cigarette contains up to 18% THC. The intense high from concentrated pot oil can literally knock you unconscious. According to an account of a NORML event in California, one person nearly cracked their skull on the sidewalk and another experienced marijuana smoker broke her two front teeth when she passed out cold after ‘dabbing’.

Honey Oil, photo from the Humboldt Sentinel
Honey Oil, photo from the Humboldt Sentinel

Another grave danger lies in the process of making homemade concentrated ‘hash’ oil. Concentrated marijuana oil is also known as Butane Hash Oil (BHO). It is made by firing up the marijuana plant material with butane, a highly flammable and toxic solvent. This intense burn releases the THC and other compounds out of the plant and concentrates them. The butane then needs to be removed by further heating the concentrate. Adding heat to a highly flammable substance is dangerous business. Any remaining butane becomes a gas at room temperature and easily ignites, even with a small spark of static electricity.

Home Chemistry is Explosive

There have been 31 butane hash oil home explosions in Colorado just during the first 9 months of 2014. California has had an even higher number; numerous have happened on Oregon and Washington, too.  Amateur oil makers are now burn victims and properties were destroyed and neighbors put at risk of harm. See PopPot’s recent article, Hash Oil Explosions Rise this Year.

This more potent form of marijuana, BHO, can be added to food.  Or it is smoked in a variety of ways.  Hash oil bong (called an oil rig) or e-cigarette vaporizer (a technique called vaping) are among the two most popular devices used to smoke BHO.

In dabbing a tiny piece of potent hash oil is put into a small compartment of pipe, vaporizer of pen. Photo: Oregonlive
In dabbing a tiny piece of potent hash oil is put into a small compartment of pipe, vaporizer of pen. Photo: Oregonlive

  The Hidden High

Unlike smoking marijuana, which gives off a noticeable, pungent odor, vaping hash oil is odorless and discrete and can go unnoticed. This means that like an e-cigarette smoker, a marijuana smoker can ‘vape’ in public places, work or even school without fear of consequences or reprisal. This makes vaping marijuana concentrate very appealing to addicts. It means those most likely to abuse the drug and become dependent on it can become more reckless about the use of the drug, thereby risking an overdose, and posing a danger to others.

Even pot culture observers are warning about the risks of vaping and dabbing.  Vaping is growing in popularity, because it allows legal marijuana to be smoked in illegal places, such as ball games, malls, theatres, schools. There is also the risk of not getting all the butane out of the finished product. According to Mother Jones magazine, “When BHO is improperly made, it can be tainted with toxins.”

A hash oil lab that was raided by police in Glendale, CA. Photo: Glendale Police.
A hash oil lab that was raided by police in Glendale, CA. Photo: Glendale Police.

The two main arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana are: 1) that it is not harmful and 2) that it is impossible to overdose.  With dabbing and vaping, we know differently.

For more on this topic read the San Francisco Weekly article, Thanks to “Dabbing,” It Is Possible to Overdose on Marijuana.

See Part 1 What is Dabbing, and Why Should Parents Worry

Downloadable Fact Sheet

Get the Parents Opposed to Pot Hash Oil Facts! Download our new flyer, which describes the hash oil explosions in states which have permissive marijuana laws: POPPOT-Hash Oil Statistics.

What is “Dabbing” and Why Parents Need to Worry

Part 1 of 2 (Part 2: Extreme Marijuana–Dabbing and Vaping)

“Dabbing” is a way to get the quickest, long-lasting high with a single inhale.  In fact, a single puff from a pipe or vaping pen can give the effect of smoking many joints.  Unfortunately for parents, the new vaping pens make it extremely difficult to see, smell or detect.

“Dabbing is to marijuana, as crack is to cocaine,” is a way it’s been explained.   No one should ever try it, because the psychosis can be immediate, and, as a habit, it is nearly impossible to get unhooked.

Why, should parents worry?  Because the pens go undetected and, secondly, because children are getting into pot at younger ages. Wheat Ridge, Colorado,  is the site of Three Kings Dab Supply, a club where users bring their own dabs and party.  According to a mom in Wheat Ridge,  “Since legalization, marijuana has become a problem in the middle schools and has shown up in the elementary schools twice.”

Marijuana users suggest that kids use dabs, precisely because it can go undetected.  Dabbing is actually more popular with the young users than with middle-aged adults, who often find it too strong.

How Dabs are Made

Dabbers take a tiny bit of butane hash oil, BHO  — hardened or buttery, and quickly light it up in a small compartment.  BHO is to marijuana, as crack is to cocaine.

Users have extracted the THC (the component in the marijuana plant that causes a high) from the plant to get maximum strength, usually using butane gas in some type of glass tube.    When it first comes out it is an oil, but the oil becomes waxy or buttery before hardening into the bits.  Hardened, it can be broken into tiny bits and give a high that last all day.

Butane has oil, a highly potent distillation of marijuana, is so potent that a single hit can last more than a day. (Photo: ABC News)
Butane has oil, a highly potent distillation of marijuana, is so potent that a single hit can last more than a day. (Photo: ABC News)  Photo above: Humboldt Sentinel

There are many nicknames for butane hash oil: “Wax,” “Honey oil,” “earwax,” “dabs” “shatter” and more.   It could be smoked, vaped or infused into the edibles.   Vaping is a concern, since the vape pens,  meant for tobacco, are adapted to be used with concentrates or dabs of marijuana.  It is  a way that teens may be using marijuana without detection.

Dabbing is Growing in Popularity Especially Among Teens

In short, hash oil offers a quick and lasting high for users.   A single hit can last more than a day.   By making it, it costs a user about 50% less than it would by buying it from a licensed dispensary or maker.

One may think that experienced, middle-aged users would be most likely to dab.  On the contrary, it is often the teens who go for the quick high, as well as the ease of use.

Dabbing packs such a wallop, it has been known to cause blackouts. Even  insiders warn that injury and death are possible.

Police in California would like to see marijuana concentrates banned.

See part 2 of this article, Extreme Marijuana-Dangers of Dabbing and Vaping.