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Common Questions Answered and Myths Dispelled
LCA Manifesto
Monday 14 Aug 2000


Cannabis is a gateway to drugs - wrong

Many people who smoke tobacco find it easier to smoke cannabis than non-smokers do. On the other hand, those who first took cannabis may have later tried tobacco when the cannabis ran out.

Few cannabis users ever take illegal drugs. The personality
(either no-hoper or explorer) that is likely to be attracted to experimenting with drugs may well have first tried cannabis: this is no argument against legalisation. Why punish those people who indulge only in cannabis because there are some other cannabis users who indulge also in drugs? In any case, punishment does not
stop drug use. (See Jamaican Study and Shafer Report.) The real 'gateway' is people, and people are often motivated by profit.

The recent study (1999) by the US Institute of Medicine - the IOM - concluded that marijuana is not addictive, it is not a gateway drug, it is not a dangerous drug and it has medical uses. According to the IOM, short-term or occasional marijuana use has minimal risk.

'Marijuana: Facts for Teens' U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, D.C. 1995, p.10: "Most marijuana users do not go on to use other drugs."

The Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence - Drug Notes - Cannabis 1996, p.8 said: "All that can be said definitely is that 1) Cannabis use generally precedes the use of other illegal drugs. 2) Cannabis use does not necessarily (or even usually) lead to the use of other illicit drugs."

The LaGuardia sub-committee of New York 1944 said: "The use of marijuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marijuana smoking".

Interestingly enough, cannabis has been used to help addicts
withdraw from alcohol and heroin: it has been described as a
'gateway out'. In the loosest sense of imagery, this concept is not unpleasant. But in reality 'gateway' remains a term misapplied.

Cannabis causes brain damage - wrong.

Studies on large populations of cannabis users have shown no
evidence of brain damage, despite efforts to prove it.

The USA Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (1987) says:
"Cannabis can be used on an episodic but continual basis without evidence of social or psychic dysfunction. In many users the term dependence with its obvious connotations, probably is mis-applied... The chief opposition to the drug rests on a moral and
political, and not toxicological, foundation".

Cannabis endangers the reproductive system - wrong.

Absolute nonsense, as all cannabis users with children know. The claim is usually based on the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who experimented with tissues in dishes in the laboratory, and on the work of researchers who dosed animals with huge amounts of cannabinoids (extracted from cannabis); the scientific community reject the claims. In the case of the animals, they all returned
to normal after 30 days.

A quick look at the birthrates amongst the regular cannabis smokers in many third world countries dispels this myth instantly.

Cannabis suppresses the immune system - wrong.

Two studies in 1978 and 1988 showed that cannabis actually
stimulated the immune system.

From "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Fact" by Zimmer and Morgan:
"The principal study fueling the original claim of immune impairment involved preparations created with white blood cells that had been removed from marijuana smokers and controls. After exposing the cells to known immune activators, researchers reported a lower rate of transformation in those taken from marijuana smokers.

"However, numerous groups of scientists, using similar techniques, have failed to confirm this original study.

"In fact, a 1988 study demonstrated an increase in responsiveness when white blood cells from marijuana smokers were exposed to immunological activators.

"Studies involving laboratory animals have shown immune impairment following administration of THC, but only with the use of extremely high doses. For example, one study demonstrated an increase in herpes infection in rodents given doses of 100 mg/kg/day -- a dose approximately 1000 times the dose necessary to produce a psychoactive effect in humans.

"There have been no clinical or epidemiological studies showing an increase in bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection among human marijuana users. In three large field studies conducted in the 1970s, in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Greece, researchers found no differences in disease susceptibility between marijuana users and matched controls.

"Marijuana use does not increase the risk of HIV infection; nor does it increase the onset or intensity of symptoms among AIDS patients. In fact, the FDA decision to approve the use of Marinol (synthetic THC) for use in HIV-wasting syndrome relied upon the absence of any immunopathology due to THC.

"Today, thousands of people with AIDS are smoking marijuana daily to combat nausea and increase appetite. There is no scientific basis for claims that this practice compromises their immune responses. Indeed, the recent discovery of a peripheral cannabinoid receptor associated with lymphatic tissue should encourage aggressive exploration of THC's potential use as an immune-system stimulant."

Cannabis impairs short-term memory - wrong.

This statement may be partially true for people who stop
concentrating, or become too involved with a particular activity. In other people, cannabis actually improves short-term memory. In either case, the effects on memory disappear when the cannabis has worn off.

This is what the experts said: "No impairment of
physiological, sensory and perceptual performance, tests of concept formation, abstracting ability, and cognitive style, and tests of memory".
(US Jamaican Study 1974)

"There is no evidence... [of] any deleterious influence on the individual using [cannabis]" (Panama Canal Zone Report, 1925)

"The commission has come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs is practically attended by no evil results at all. ... moderate use of hemp... appears to cause no appreciable physical injury of any kind,... no injurious effects on the mind... [and] no moral injury whatever." (Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1894)

"Cannabis smoking] does not lead directly to mental or
physical deterioration... Those who have consumed marijuana for a period of years showed no mental or physical deterioration which may be attributed to the drug
(LaGuardia Commission Report, 1944)

"Having reviewed all the material available to us we
find ourselves in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission appointed by the Government of India (1893-94) and the New York Mayor's Committee (1944 - LaGuardia) that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects.
(The Wootton Report, UK. 1968)

"Cannabis can be used on an episodic but continual basis without evidence of social or psychic dysfunction. In many users the term dependence with its obvious connotations, probably is mis-applied... The chief opposition to the drug rests on a moral and political, and not toxicological, foundation". (The USA Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 1987)

Cannabis lingers in the body like DDT - wrong.

Although cannabis does linger in the fatty tissues of the body by clinging onto fatty cells and dissolving, this effect is not like that produced by DDT, which is highly toxic. Cannabis can stay in the body for up to 90 days, although the effect has worn off after hours. Vitamin A is also fat-soluble but potentially toxic. This is no reason to prohibit cannabis use.

Cannabis a-motivates - wrong.

Dr. Andrew Weil (Rubin & Comitas Ganja in Jamaica, 1975)
said "A-motivation [is] a cause of heavy marijuana smoking rather than the reverse."

Cannabis causes cancer - wrong.

BOSTON, Jan. 30, 1997 (UPI) - "The U.S. federal government has failed to make public its own 1994 study that undercuts its position that marijuana is carcinogenic - a $2 million study by the National Toxicology Program. The deputy director of the program, John Bucher, said the study found absolutely no evidence of cancer. In fact, animals that received THC had fewer cancers. Bucher denies his agency had been pressured to shelve the report, saying the
delay in making it public was due to a personnel shortage.

The study indicated not only that the main ingredient in marijuana, THC, does not cause cancer, but also laboratory tests on animals show that it may even protect against malignancies.

The report comes on the heels of an editorial in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, that favours the controlled medical use of marijuana and calls current federal policy misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane.

Cannabis smoke harms the lungs - wrong.

The KAISER PERMANENTE. 'Prohibition is unhealthy', 1997

Kaiser-Permanente is a large US health-care provider. This study into the effects of long-term smoking of cannabis took 10 years, and involved 65,000 people who had received check-ups between 1979 and 1985. The patients were divided into those who had, and those who had not, used cannabis regularly or currently. It was reported that risks associated with cannabis smoking were lower than for
tobacco smoking. It also noted that smokers with AIDS had no higher death rate than non-smokers with AIDS. The report stated:
"Relatively few adverse clinical effects from the chronic use of marijuana have been documented in humans. However, the criminalization of marijuana-use may itself be a health hazard, since it may expose the users to violence and criminal activity."

An 8-year study at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine concluded that long-term smokers of cannabis do not experience a greater annual decline in lung functions than non-smokers.

Researchers said: "Findings from the present long-term
follow-up study of heavy, habitual marijuana smokers argue against the concept that the continuing heavy use of marijuana is a significant factor for the development of [chronic lung disease].

"No differences were noted between even quite heavy marijuana smoking and nonsmoking of marijuana."

(Volume 155 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Clinical Care Medicine 1997)

A study of 268 cannabis smokers who, on average, had smoked for 19 years, and 31 non-using partners and family members, concluded that the health of the long-term smokers is virtually no different from that of the general population. Chief researcher Richard Reilly said: "The results seem unremarkable...The exceptional thing was that the respondents were unexceptional." (For more
information e-mail James Danenberg

Cannabis is dangerous for driving - wrong

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a thorough study into the actual effects on driving skills from smoking cannabis in small, moderate and large amounts. The tests were conducted in simulators and on the road in both urban and motorway conditions. This is the Introduction to their report issued in 1993:

"This program of research has shown that marijuana, when taken alone, produces a moderate degree of driving impairment which is related to the consumed THC dose. The impairment manifests itself mainly in the ability to maintain a steady lateral position on the road, but its magnitude is not exceptional in comparison with changes produced by many medicinal drugs and alcohol. Drivers
under the influence of marijuana retain insight into their
performance and will compensate, where they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC's adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small."

Other studies in Australia have confirmed that there is no need for concern that increased use of cannabis would detrimentally effect the accident rates.

Unlike the so-called contrary evidence sometimes presented by prohibitionists, these studies were on the actual driving skills of the subjects, not their blood or urine. Prohibitionist and Government literature often cite the statistics based upon the blood analysis of fatal accident victims, as if they were meaningful, claiming that about 30% in some cases had cannabis in their systems. However, often alcohol and other drugs were also present, and no control figure of the number of drivers with
cannabis but not involved in accidents, is ever present.

It is no more logical to suggest that cannabis caused the accident than to suggest that the absence of cannabis in the other 60% of accident fatalities was responsible for their accidents.

It makes sense to test driving skill, not body samples, and to prosecute those driving dangerously, not those driving safely.

For a more detailed discussion on cannabis myths we direct the reader to the excellent work of Professors Zimmer and Morgan : Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts.



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