The way the media misrepresents information about marijuana is unjust. Everyday news stations negatively exaggerate the effects of marijuana and ignore its helpful benefits. Medical marijuana can be used to treat chemotherapy side effects like nausea, vomiting and weight loss, muscle spasms and stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis, various pain syndromes and seizures. It can be taken several ways, inhaled either through smoke or vapor, as an edible like a cookie or an herbal tea or as a liquid under the tongue. But marijuana is not without its side effects. It can cause confusion, dizziness, worsen some mental illnesses like depression and like cigarettes when smoked it can hurt your lungs.
In the CNN town hall just before the South Carolina primary, former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, gave a reasoned argument against legalizing marijuana.
But then he said something completely untrue, that 50 percent of federal inmates are in prison for drug use.
Fifty percent of federal prison inmates are incarcerated for drug crimes but they're in for drug trafficking, not drug use. The same holds true in state prison. Research published in Contemporary Drug Problems found that only one-half of one percent of the U.S. prison population is locked up solely for drug possession. For marijuana its about one half of one-tenth of one percent (about 400 inmates) nationwide and even those numbers are probably high; drug possession is often the lesser charge in a plea deal.
Of course there are some people who want to smoke pot just to get high but that doesn't represent everyone's interest in cannabis. There are two main functions of marijuana, recreational and medical. On the one hand there are people who smoke for the fun of it. On the other hand there are people who use it to treat chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and a whole host of other disorders.
"Stoners wear tie dye, listen to Bob Marley on repeat and are bad at personal hygiene." This is the style stereotype of stoners that appears most frequently in pop culture. It is certainly reflected in head shops and exist within some stoner subgroups but as the legalization movement spreads it becomes less and less accurate. There's nothing wrong with tie die or Bob Marley of course but the style classification isn't true and because it is often cited as supporting evidence of the aforementioned stereotypes it seems appropriate that we let that image go.
"You smoke marijuana like tobacco so it must be just as bad for you." Cigarettes lead to nearly half a million American deaths each year so it might seem natural to assume that marijuana smoke drawn into the lungs in the same fashion would also do some serious physiological harm but science hasn't borne out this hypothesis. Studies have found that cannabis and tobacco smoke contain some of the same carcinogens but cigarettes, which contain nicotine, cause significantly more harm than marijuana which contains cannabinoids.
While many marijuana smokers may report respiratory discomfort like coughing or wheezing after excessive pot use an extensive study released in 2012 found that the drug itself does not impair lung function. Other studies have found that cannabis can even suppress a variety of aggressive cancer cells. If medical science has reached any real conclusion about marijuana its simply that more research should be done to pin down the exact effects of cannabis smoke and cannabinoids.
While smoking is the most common way to use marijuana, there are also other methods of delivery that allow users to minimize or avoid potential harm to the lungs. Ingesting high-potency cannabis-infused edibles or using a vaporizer which eliminates much of the heated marijuana smoke are a few of the most common alternatives.