Montana NORML

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Marijuana Facts

Myth: Marijuana use leads to hard drugs.

Fact: There is a statistical association between users of "hard drugs" and users of marijuana, but marijuana does not cause anyone to do other drugs. It's merely a fact that there are many more marijuana users than users of cocaine, for example; hence, the average cocaine user is likely to have also smoked marijuana. Around 100 million Americans have tried marijuana. If it was such a "gateway drug", why are there only 1/100 that many regular cocaine users? Another way to look at it: bicycle riding doesn't "lead to", or "cause" motorcycle use-- it is simply the case that most motorcyclists rode bicycles first. For the vast majority people who try marijuana, it's the only illegal drug they'll ever do.

Myth: Marijuana offenders get a slap on the wrist anyway.

Fact: Many people think that being busted for pot is "no big deal". Think again. In 2007, over 872,000 people were arrested for marijuana offenses. Over 80% of those arrested were charged with possession. Tens of thousands are in prison today. Federal penalties for possession of a single joint can be as high as a $10,000 fine and a year in prison. Here in Montana, possession can land you in prison for 20 years. Grow it, and you could be sentenced to life. Forfeiture of assets, including vehicles used to transport marijuana and houses in which it is grown, is common. See our legal section for details.

Myth: The Netherlands, where marijuana is legal, is a cesspool of vice and crime. Legalization doesn't work!

Fact: Rates of marijuana use in Dutch adolescents is lower than in American youths. Dutch "coffee houses", where marijuana may be bought and consumed, are not allowed to advertise. Purchasers must be eighteen years of age. A five gram limit on individual transactions discourages profiteering. No other drugs may be purchased or consumed in coffee houses. Users are advised to be sensible and responsible, rather than being admonished, threatened, and persecuted.

Myth: Marijuana kills brain cells.

Fact: None of the medical tests involving humans have shown any evidence of brain damage due to marijuana use, including chronic long term use. The assertion that pot kills brain cells is based on a flawed study involving rhesus monkeys in the 1970s, in which electrodes were implanted in the monkeys' brains. This invasive procedure killed or otherwise removed all but one of the monkeys from the test. A 1991 study of rhesus monkeys and marijuana smoke revealed no marijuana-related brain abnormalities whatsoever.

Myth: Marijuana interferes with male and female sex hormones and causes lower sperm count.

Fact: The few studies that have shown a drop in testosterone levels in male marijuana smokers have shown modest, temporary decreases only. No long term or significant effects have been noted. Repeated high dosages in animals eventually produce tolerance, bringing about no change in hormone levels whatsoever. Temporary decreased sperm counts in one study returned to normal upon completion of the 30 day, high dosage experiment.

Myth: Marijuana users have a high risk of lung cancer, much higher than tobacco smokers.

Fact: While the risk of lung cancer cannot be ruled out, there has never been a case of cancer attributable solely to marijuana use. Marijuana smokers generally smoke much less than tobacco smokers, inhaling significantly lower quanitities of irritants and carcinogens over the long term. Unlike tobacco smokers, small airways are not blocked by marijuana use, which may mean that marijuana smoke will not cause emphysema.

Myth: Marijuana is much more potent today than the sixties and seventies.

Fact: Improper storage and small sample sizes characterize the potency statistics from the sixties and seventies. Higher potency marijuana may be more available today than it was two decades ago because users are turning away from low quality Mexican shipments, and growing their own indoors more frequently. Higher potency does not make marijuana more or less dangerous -- users simply tend to smoke less.

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