5 Frustrating Misconceptions About Cannabis

Published on May 19, 2014 · Last updated April 9, 2024

We asked via the Leafly Twitter account the following question:

As the cannabis movement continues to pick up steam, this question is more timely than ever. Yes, there is a lot of amazing progress being made and people are becoming more educated on the positive qualities of cannabis. However, frustrations persist and some of our followers shared the most aggravating misconceptions they hear on a regular basis. Below are the highlights: 

1. “It’s a Gateway Drug”

Drug addict

Credit to Twitter users madniggels, SLM420LOVE, pcava, KlausDaGardener, and QwikWittz for chiming in with this popular misconception. We’ve all heard this one from as early on as our elementary school D.A.R.E. days, and it’s a popular argument your parents have used to illustrate the slippery slope that starts with cannabis and ends with injecting heroin between your toes. Yes, there is a correlation between cannabis consumption and other drug use, but as TIME points out, correlation does not equal causation. While hard drug users may also be cannabis users, the vast majority of cannabis users aren’t going to graduate to stronger drugs.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences compiled a report commissioned by Congress examining the potential dangers of cannabis. Included in the report was this statement:

There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.

Other studies have followed suit, and alcohol is actually being touted as more of a serious gateway drug than cannabis. Yet somehow the naysayers don’t get tired of whipping this misconception out of their debate book and using it as ammunition.

2. “It Makes You Lazy and Stupid”

Couch potato watching TV

Twitter users thatjohnnygreen and kd716 offered up this obnoxious misconception that causes many consumers to roll their eyes. In kd716’s instance, he’s been a consumer for over 10 years and is gainfully employed with a Bachelor’s degree. Leafly’s talented and driven team could not have created GeekWire’s 2014 App of the Year if we were all too baked to come into work and get anything done. I know cannabis consumers who are Boston marathoners, Ironman triathletes, successful CEOs and entrepreneurs — much how alcohol doesn’t automatically give everyone who takes a sip a big beer belly and cirrhosis, cannabis doesn’t instantly glue you to a beanbag chair and prevent you from going outside as soon as you touch a bud.

Yes, some studies have been released that indicate regular cannabis consumption can lead to lower levels of dopamine and thus lower levels of motivation, but conversely, other studies have found little evidence that supports cannabis-induced amotivational syndrome. We need more studies surrounding this plant and its effects in order to truly understand its impact on the human body. Until then, keep in mind that there are different types of cannabis consumers other than the lazy hippie stereotype that immediately comes to mind for a lot of people. Some may be lazy by nature, yes, but others are successful, hard-working individuals who don’t let cannabis define their successes or failures.

3. “It’s Dangerous/Deadly”

The "cannabis is dangerous" myth

Thanks to Twitter user chrisgee204 for contributing this frustrating talking point, the all-encompassing “Cannabis is deadly!” argument. There has never been a single confirmed death by cannabis overdose in the history of the world. True, cannabis has occasionally been a contributing factor in deaths, but those are instances of either lifestyle dangers (e.g., trafficking/dealing/cartel violence) or gross negligence leading to accidents. And those outliers are vastly usurped by alcohol-related deaths, prescription drug overdoses, or even accidents resulting from fatigue.

There are countless other everyday things that are more likely to kill you than cannabis, but cannabis opponents are often all-too eager to jump on any potential drawbacks of the plant and spread fear messages that cannabis will kill you. Like alcohol, cannabis is intended for responsible adults (with some medical exceptions, of course). And like alcohol, sometimes people abuse cannabis or are irresponsible with it. But unlike alcohol, cannabis tends to get the brunt of the blame when something negative happens. Does an angry mob lash out at Budweiser or Grey Goose and clamor to make alcohol illegal whenever someone gets a DUI or dies from an alcohol-related incident?

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Let’s be clear: anything can be dangerous in excessive amounts. You could die from drinking too much water. But because cannabis has a global spotlight shining on it, it’s all the more important to be both responsible with and respectful to a plant that too often gets a heap of criticism piled atop it. As far as how dangerous cannabis is, well, so far the population of Colorado hasn’t died off drastically since January 1st (in fact, crime is down in comparison to the same time period in 2013) so that’s a pretty good sign thus far that the world won’t devolve into a Thunderdome situation if cannabis were legalized.

Can You Overdose or Die From Consuming Cannabis?

4. “It’s Such a Negative Substance”


According to Twitter user DPerigino, the general negativity surrounding the word “cannabis” or “marijuana” alone is frustrating enough. All of the above misconceptions bubble up as soon as someone who is opposed to cannabis hears the word uttered. Or maybe people just have a negative association with cannabis simply because they’ve been taught for so many years that cannabis is bad. Either way, “cannabis = evil” is something the industry has been trying to overcome for decades. We’ve made incredible progress in the past couple years alone, but we still have a ways to go before most people think of “cannabis” as just another word instead of a launchpad for heated and misinformed debate.

5. “It’s Illegal for a Reason”

Gavel with cannabis

Ah, yes, the illegality angle. Twitter user somanagpo brought up a misconception that’s inspired numerous states from coast to coast to make a change. Yes, cannabis is illegal federally, but not because it has negative connotations, it’s dangerous, it makes you lazy and stupid, or because it’s a gateway drug. In fact, cannabis was quite a cash crop before the 1800s. Unfortunately, hundreds of years of misguided drug labeling, xenophobia, and fear mongering has twisted a plant once celebrated for its therapeutic and textile benefits into a Big Bad Bogeyman that hides in your kids’ closets and turns them into junkies against their will. So actually, cannabis is illegal for no logical reason other than misguided tradition. As more states continue to shape history and change the way we think about this plant, our hope is that in the near future, this misguided tradition will quickly become a fading memory.

What other frustrating misconceptions about cannabis do you hear or come across? Share your example by leaving a comment! In the meantime, check out even more cannabis misconceptions we busted or learn how you can defy the “stoner” stereotype:

photo credit: JuditK via photopincc

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Rebecca Kelley
Rebecca Kelley
Rebecca is the Content Director at Leafly, where she oversees Leafly News production and other content projects.
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