The Newfoundland Herald breaks down the most acknowledged stigmas and misconceptions surrounding marijuana, debunking them and providing the facts


For decades, cannabis has been under the microscope with its reputation cultivated and controlled. This has led to powerful stigmas against the popular plant, flooding the general population with an abundance of misinformation; Is pot a gateway drug? Can casual use lead to addiction? Does cannabis really cure cancer? Does it kill off brain cells?

While many in today’s society acknowledge the truth about cannabis, the myths and misconceptions are still repeated in the majority of mainstream circles. Studies have been taking place for years, and only now is the evidence coming to the forefront proving that the majority of the arguments against cannabis simply don’t hold up. 

The Newfoundland Herald breaks down FIVE of the most persistent myths about cannabis — followed by the actual facts to debunk them. 

Myth: Cannabis use leads to addiction       

Fact: We hear this time and time again; “Weed is a drug and you’ll become addicted”. It’s important to understand that anything on this earth can become a dependency, including marijuana. However, marijuana is not addictive. The plant does not contain physically addictive properties like those of alcohol, cigarettes, or heroin. Instead, it’s euphoric high has the potential of becoming a dependency, similar to drinking coffee regularly. 

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“Addiction is an uncontrollable urge to use a substance even when it is causing negative effects in your life, and once you stop you have major withdrawals. Marijuana dependency is more like caffeine dependency. When you stop you’d like to still have it, but there is no strong urge to continue. 

You may get minor withdrawals such as: headaches, insomnia, and slight irritability, but have you gone a few days without your coffee? I know you can’t look at me!” shared Taylor Wakeham, owner and operator of Higher Tides. 

Myth: Cannabis is a gateway drug

Fact: You’ve probably heard this amongst all of the anti-marijuana propaganda that came spewing out during the 1970s and beyond. It’s been said that marijuana is a gateway drug, leading teenagers and adults down a blind tunnel of experimenting and using harder drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth. 

Scientists studying marijuana have taken this theory into consideration for decades, but the long-held theory is controversial. Many scientists have stated that other factors such as trauma, homelessness and poverty could be more significant contributing variables leading to the use of illicit drugs. On the contrary, cannabis has actually been proven to reduce the need for opioid prescriptions.

“Cannabis is no more of a gateway drug than is Tylenol. Cannabis has been proven to help addicts come off of harsh and addictive medications. A person searching for a high will use anything, there are kids snorting sleeping pills these days, enough said,” stated Kevin Dunne, cannabis counsellor at CannaConnect in St. John’s. 

Myth: Cannabis kills off brain cells  

Fact: There is little to no evidence suggesting that any of the active ingredients in the marijuana plant administered at doses appropriate for human consumption actually affects brain cells or neurons. However, this myth isn’t completely a myth.

Age restrictions do exist for a reason. Consuming certain things while young will most definitely affect your brain development. This goes for not only marijuana, but also alcohol, too much screen time, and sugar. 

That being said, cannabidiol (CBD), one of the compounds found in marijuana, is often used to treat children. While children shouldn’t consume cannabis containing high levels of THC, the compound in marijuana that causes the high, studies prove that ingesting CBD oil can be very beneficial in treating children, as well as adults and animals, for a variety of medical conditions.   

Myth: Cannabis is dangerous 

Fact: It’s a dangerous situation when you’ve consumed cannabis in some form and find yourself standing in front of the fridge, let me tell ya. In all seriousness, cannabis is not dangerous. According to studies, you would need to consume around 1,500 pounds of it to overdose, which generally you would “green out” (get stomach sick, followed by falling asleep) way, way beforehand.

As comedy icon Bill Murray once said, he “finds it quite ironic that the most dangerous thing about weed is getting caught with it.” While this is true, if used irresponsibly, yes, there are potential dangers related to cannabis. But that’s a choice made by the people, not at fault of the plant.

For one, don’t get behind the wheel after ingesting cannabis. Would you drink and drive? Don’t operate heavy machinery whilst under the influence. Don’t leave your meds, or cannabis, within easy reach of young children. 

Although cannabis itself isn’t dangerous, in young children it can potentially raise their heart rate to a fatal level if over-ingested. You wouldn’t leave an open bottle of Tylenol around your young child, so don’t do it with medical cannabis. Again, to reiterate, children can consume CBD for medical purposes if prescribed and monitored by an adult. 

Myth: Cannabis is an illicit drug 

Fact: While cannabis remains illegal for recreational use in Canada, we were in fact the first nation to legalize marijuana for medical use back in 2001. British Columbia, for example, has essentially no enforcement for recreational use except for large growing operations and DWI offences, understandably so. 

With all of its proven health benefits, who cares about a little safe recreational cannabis use? Considering the myriad of side effects, it’s no wonder why cannabis is becoming more accepted as medicine, legally! Cannabis can remedy pain, curb nausea, encourage appetite, boost the mood, offer energy and motivation, cure insomnia, promote weight gain, and ease anxiety and depression. 

Medical cannabis has been strongly linked to the big “C” word, cancer. It’s also been linked to helping inflammation, migraines, sleep disorders and arthritis. It’s been proven to help with muscle spasms cause by multiple sclerosis, poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness such as HIV. Medical cannabis has been used on a wide range of age groups in aid with seizure disorders and Crohn’s disease, as well as Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. We also can’t leave out it’s incredible side effects on mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and BPD. 

Lazy Pot Heads?

“I believe marijuana is like anything else, in moderation it’s fine, and it shouldn’t even be compared to other illegal drugs,” Taylor Wakeham adds. “The only misconception I would like to add is that marijuana makes you lazy. Marijuana does not make you lazy, you allow yourself to be lazy. I still run a business, am at the shop every day. I hike a lot, snowboard, work out, mountain bike when the weather is nice, I’m always working on my car and truck. I have a trade under my belt, and I am going to university in September for electrical engineering. I hang out with a lot of people and know a lot of people who are flat out all day, every day, but still smoke weed regularly.” 

For more information on medical cannabis, stop by or call Kevin Dunne Cannabis Counsellor at CannaConnect, 687 Water Street or (709) 757-9346 

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