Movies can have an interesting effect on people. The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellbound: Hellraiser…these movies have all caused irrational fears in a multitude of impressionable viewers. It’s a superpower, this movie-making business.
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Just look at the powerful effect Reefer Madness has had on our society. That 1936 cult classic and others of its ilk, coupled with a systematic, racist propaganda campaign, continue to influence cultural views and even our language about cannabis, a.k.a. marihuana and its bastard cousin, “marijuana”, reefer, dope, etc.
The way many people even today proudly draw a sharp line between their tolerance of occasional use of alcohol (“not a drug”) and cannabis (“drug of abuse”) for social relaxation indicates that not much has changed in societal attitudes since these films were used to bolster prohibition. The inverse irony that alcohol actually IS a drug, while the cannabis plant technically is not, is completely lost on most of these average folks.
Cannabis as medicine
For thousands of years cannabis was used and widely accepted as an effective medicine for a variety of illnesses in Asia, but not in North America. While Cannabis sativa was grown as hemp in the British colonies, it was primarily used to make paper, clothes, and for use in such ever-important maritime needs as rope and sails. It wasn’t until the 1800s, when large groups of Chinese immigrants came to North America, that Americans realized the useful plant was also medicine.
Once they learned of the health benefits, Americans embraced cannabis. In the 1840s it was the norm to be able to walk into any pharmacy in the U.S. and purchase cannabis medicine, usually a tincture. In 1850 the herb was added to the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. And for 65 years after that, Americans were able to purchase cannabis products whenever they felt like it, or they could grow their own.
So why is it that 36 percent of Texans who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2012-2014 actually believe that partaking of cannabis once a month puts a person at “great risk of harm”? Over one in three actually think that cannabis could kill or become an addiction!
Now, to be fair, it wasn’t just Texas. Utah and Oklahoma were also in on it.
Why do people still think it’s deadly when all the evidence shows that even regular cannabis use has a negligible risk of physical addiction and zero chance of death by overdose? In ten thousand years, there is no known instance of the herb having proven lethal. It’s a record of safety unmatched by beer, tobacco, sugar, pen caps—even water.
One in three of those surveyed in states where cannabis use is illegal thought the herb presented “great risk of harm”. However, in states in which cannabis use is legal, that perception plunged to 18 percent.
This is, of course, still shocking evidence of an epidemic, a mind-blowing level of mass ignorance among the populace. About 20 percent of people believe there is great risk of harm in partaking of cannabis once a month?! (There isn’t.)
The notion is absurd on its face. And these people get to vote. That’s a scary thought.
What do those same people think about prescription pharmaceuticals like OxyContin, Valium, Xanax, or Klonopin? All of the above can cause addiction, suicidal thoughts, and death. But they are perfectly legal, despite the very real and present dangers.
It’s time we fight the propaganda that has been allowed to dominate the conversation in our country for almost 100 years. How? Spread the word. If you know someone who has benefited from cannabis as medicine, tell their story. (If it needs to be anonymous, don’t “out” that person, but you can share non-identifying details to get your point across.)
Cannabis is for sharing
If you have experienced benefits from cannabis and can share your story, please do so. The faster mainstream America realizes that we’ve been sold a ridiculously false bill of goods regarding the imagined “dangers” of plant-based medicine, the better for everyone who needs cannabis. The more discretionary consumers who “come out”, the better to help break the stereotype of “lazy stoners”.
The tide is turning, and we have the power to effect great change. Let’s all work together to improve the landscape and make the natural, healthier alternative to pills for ills and booze for the blues a viable choice for all. We can do it. We can beat the real-life villains who use make-believe to deprive free people of their basic human liberty.