33 Myths About Marijuana You Need to Stop Believing Immediately

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In the first episode of Thrillist's new myth-debunking series, host Wil Fulton uncovers the real truth behind "the munchies," with help from some of his more science-inclined colleagues from Seeker. Is it all just a hippy-dippy stereotype, or a legitimate side-effect from smoking weed?  We'll get to the bottom of it, or get high trying. Sorry, we meant die trying. (Note: No Thrillist employees were harmed during the filming of GutBusted).

Out of any intoxicant -- legal and otherwise -- marijuana (aka Mary Jane, greenery, diggity dank sauce, etc.) can probably be singled out as the most misunderstood. Just think of all the rumors and misinformation you've been fed by D.A.R.E. (more on that later), or your best friend's sister's ex-boyfriend who totally knew a guy that was related to the kid who totally smoked this strain of Northern Lights and thought he was a banana for the rest of his life. 

We've decided to clear the air, once and for all, to give you the straight dope on every lie you've ever been told about weed. We promise not to blow smoke up your... well, any orifice, really.


1. Marijuana kills brain cells

After many decades of back-and-forth studies, recent University of Louisville research has determined that marijuana use does not, in fact, kill off those precious brain cells that keep your noggin humming. This corroborates a 2003 report in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society published by Cambridge University making the same claim. Good news for tokers. Bad news for PSA makers. 

2. You can get high from eating raw weed

Can you get high from just popping a nug into your mouth and swallowing? The answer is no. Marijuana has to be heated and combined with a fatty substance (like butter) and consumed orally for any effect. Go ahead. Try it yourself. You'll just end up with a mouthful of stems and nothing to show for it.

3. Weed and sex don't gel

Many teen-focused public-service ads warning about the perils of weed focus on the fact that it makes you antisocial, unable to talk to members of the opposite sex, and an overall dud in the sack. But Canadian researchers performing the most applied-for case study ever (probably) found that more than half of participants who had sex while stoned reported it as more enjoyable than regular sex. But studies have shown that some people -- men, exclusively -- might have some trouble **ahem** rising to the occasion after smoking too much.

4. Marijuana is addictive

This is an admittedly tough (and controversial) one. We all have the friend who "just can't function without weed, man!" But is there any real proof that it's actually addictive? Not really... or at least not in the way we commonly classify "addiction." Often, this kind of addiction is referred to as a "dependency," largely focusing on a mental attachment to the drug. People do get "addicted," technically, but a similar addiction could occur with chocolate, or driving race cars every weekend. A mental dependency has a lot to do with an individual's mental makeup and overall state of mind. So it's not fair to qualify marijuana as physiologically and inherently addictive like harder drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.), even though some individuals can use marijuana with addict-like dependencies.

Around 9% of people who use weed heavily will grow dependent in their lifetime, as opposed to 15% of heavy cocaine users and 24% of heroin users.

5. Quitting smoking is easy

While there is no proof that marijuana is physically addictive (see above), anyone who has seen Half Baked knows that quitting pot can be a tall order for a heavy smoker. And it's not just about willpower. Frequent smokers -- like, very frequent smokers -- have reported withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia, and appetite loss. While these pale in comparison to withdrawal experiences from other drugs, they're still worth noting. Generally, though, casual smokers should have nothing to worry about if they stop smoking cold turkey. Except not finding Family Guy funny anymore, which will probably happen.

George Washington
Public Domain/Wikimedia

6. George Washington grew weed in his backyard

I'm sorry to disappoint, Dazed and Confused fans, but the father of our country grew hemp, not weed. There is a difference. And he only did it because he thought it would be super-lucrative (it wasn't).

7. Smoking pot is worse for your lungs than cigarettes

Despite having some similar components, a large-scale national study showed that smoke from Mary Jane was less harmful than the chemical concoctions you find in your average cigarette. Not only that, but the consumption rate of the two drugs is strikingly different. While an average cigarette smoker would be likely to puff a pack a day, an average daily pot smoker probably wouldn't be toking 20 joints per 24 hours. That's like, beyond Snoop territory.

8. Marijuana impacts your memories

It's no secret that marijuana alters your short-term memory... we were literally just talking about that (just kidding). But surprisingly, it's been shown that using weed doesn't affect your existing memories, nor does it cause long-term memory loss or diseases like dementia. Who needs short-term memories anyway? Just tie your car keys/cellphone/wallet/lighter to your belt and call it a day. 

9. The munchies and the giggles aren't real

Two common reactions to smoking marijuana are: laughing at everything and getting really, really into eating food. I call it "Seth Rogen Syndrome." While some may claim this is just a pot stereotype or a self-fulfilling exaggeration, there's actual science behind both claims. Studies have shown that marijuana increases senses like taste and scent, literally making food taste better. As far as a heightened tendency to laugh goes, marijuana is known to elevate and isolate your perception, as well as provide a heightened level of confusion, which some researchers believe leads to a more jolly mood. Which naturally leads to barrels of laughs, all around.

10. Most people that smoke pot are potheads

With marijuana becoming a bigger part of mainstream American culture, more people are trying it than ever before... but that doesn't mean we are turning into a nation of full-blown Lebowskis. Only about 6 million of the 30 million who reported using marijuana in the past year use it on a daily (or frequent, meaning "almost daily") basis. So the overwhelming majority of pot smokers blaze in moderation.

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11. D.A.R.E. actually helps kids stay away from drugs

Anecdotally, I can say that the kids active in D.A.R.E were some of the biggest smokers I knew in high school. Statistically, it seems that D.A.R.E. can actually increase the odds of kids getting into intoxicants, probably because of how dangerously enjoyable/attainable they make these substances seem to the young and impressionable. Whoops! Maybe try reverse psychology?

12. You can overdose on weed

Nope. You would have to take almost 40,000 times the regular dose of weed (at once) in order to theoretically ingest a lethal amount of THC. So basically, you would have to build a bong the size of the Empire State Building, stand inside of it, and breathe deeper than a yoga instructor on top of Mount Everest to even come close. Though that would be a cool way to go, all things considered.

13. Everyone who smokes weed looks the same

Do Bob Marley, Steve Jobs, Rick Steves, Snoop, Conan O'Brien, Whoopi Goldberg, Willie Nelson, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Aniston look the same? Not every pot smoker is draped in a Jamaican flag and puka shells, you know.

14.  Buying weed supports terrorism

This was a big one in my seventh-grade health class. "Kids, every time you smoke marijuana, you are supporting terrorism. That's right. All your weed comes from terrorists. Like Al-Qaeda!" Look, buying weed on the black market no doubt supports the criminal element in a small way (duh), but don't feel like you are putting a gun in the hands of an ISIS member every time you spark a joint.

15. Legalizing pot will not hurt criminals

The Washington Postestimates that cartels stand to lose billions of dollars if pot becomes legalized in the US, with some standing to be stripped of half their revenue. That, and the trickle-down effect on the smaller intricacies of the black market that would occur, can serve as overwhelming evidence as to how marijuana legalization would put a serious dent in criminal elements all over the continent.

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Propaganda Time/youtube

16. You can cheat your drug test

Nope. You can't. If for some reason you bought into some shifty drug test-beating panacea -- like a detox kit or drinking a virgin squid ink cocktail from a back alley in Chinatown -- and it worked, well, congrats! You just witnessed a coincidence. The only way to "fool" modern drug tests is to either bring in someone else's clean urine (make sure it's heated, they test for temperature too), or use a Whizzinator (with fake, synthetic urine). Or you could always, you know, quit smoking.

17. Weed stays in your system for 30 days

Without delving too deep into things like half-lives and THC levels, it basically breaks down like this: A one-time user should be clear in a matter of days. A weekly smoker, a couple weeks, tops. For a daily smoker, it could be up to a month or more, depending on the level of fat on his/her body, as well as individual factors like metabolism. THC is stored in fat, so exercising can actually help, though just sweating can't. So skip the sauna, and focus on burning fat.

18. Pot gives you man boobs

In 2013, CNN reported that marijuana can give male users a condition known as gynecomastia... commonly called "man boobs." This claim was swiftly debunked. Interest in the Manzier skyrocketed, then plummeted back to Earth, where it belongs.

19. All weed is created equal

Anyone who's ever seen a menu from a coffee shop in Amsterdam or at a dispensary knows that there are myriad weed strains out there. But what a casual toker might neglect to notice is that the effects of individual strains vary greatly. Indica strains are known to give users a relaxing body high ("indica = in da couch," remember that) while sativa strains deliver a more cerebral high, designed to enhance. Hybrids are mixtures of the two and cover all the areas in between "totally chilled" and "omg my hands are huuuuuge!"

20. Marijuana is a gateway drug

This myth is so basic and well-trodden, I considered not even including it on this list. But alas, no, there is no real evidence that weed is a gateway drug. A report by the Institute of Medicine states "no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs." Realistically, weed is just the most common drug in America, so most people are exposed to it before anything else.

21. Weed is legal in Portugal and the Netherlands

In Portugal it's only decriminalized: If you buy, use, or sell pot, you can get fined or be forced to do community service. In the Netherlands (that's where Amsterdam is) it's even more complicated. You're not really supposed to have it at all, but the government just kind of doesn't care. And for good reason! There are 4.5 million tourists flocking to Amsterdam every year, a large majority to indulge in the fruits of the famed coffee shops. At any rate, if you plan to visit either of these countries to smoke, you'll be fine. Just don't be stupid. 

Gay Pride Flag

22. Pot can turn straight people gay

A few years ago, stories were circulating that apparently asserted marijuana has the effect of making straight people unstraight. No official studies have been conducted on this Reefer Madness-caliber nonsense, but if the words of user-submitted confessions can be taken as fact, weed just lowers inhibitions, which causes people to act out on impulses they may not usually indulge in under normal circumstances. TL;DR: This is bullshit.

23. Weed will leave you sterile

Though it is true that smoking marijuana frequently can leave you with abnormal sperm (a term no man or whale wants to hear), no studies have shown that it lasts forever, and even the short-term effects aren't extreme enough to label a person as "sterile." So no, bongs are not the new condoms.

24. People know where 4/20 came from

People say it's a police code for possession, or a standard meet-up time for fans of the Grateful Dead or high-school kids in SoCal to meet up and burn. But truthfully, no one knows why this is the official number of all things marijuana. It just is, man.

25. Pot smokers are lazy and unsuccessful 

While I normally find it hard to disagree with Nancy Grace (kidding... I'm kidding), I think this list might make her bite her (surprisingly not-forked) tongue, even if this one doesn't.

26. Weed leads to violent crime

Criminals do smoke weed at a higher rate than the general population. But they also drink, smoke cigarettes, and gamble more than your average non-offender. It's not that marijuana is the cause of violent crime, more that criminals have much higher tendencies to partake in risky behavior. Smoking marijuana, though arguably less risky than most criminal activities, is no exception.

27. Marijuana makes you more creative

Marijuana use may be highly prevalent among artists, writers, and musicians, but that doesn't mean the herb is making these already-creative people even more creative. According to a recent study, professors at Leiden University found after extensive testing that marijuana only produces an "illusion of enhanced creativity" and not a superior creative mindset. This explains so much about that last Afroman album. 

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Universal Studios/Youtube

28. Weed will cure your anxiety 

While some people are prescribed medical marijuana to combat anxiety, it can actually have the reverse effect on a lot of the weed-smoking population (read: extreme paranoia). It's this kind of untested duality that makes proving the legitimacy of medical marijuana to combat mental illness such a complicated issue.

29. Legalized weed is a bad thing for the country 

One billion dollars. That's how much money Colorado dispensaries made last year, creating over $150 million in tax dollars that will go toward schools, public programs, and the elderly. Along with nearly 16,000 new jobs created so far, it has become a viable part of Colorado's economy without suffering any spikes in crime, and zero difference in teen use of the drug than in states where the drug is prohibited.

30. The jury is still out on the beneficial effects of medical marijuana

In a national survey conducted in 2014, a large majority of doctors agreed that marijuana should either be fully legalized or at least allowed for medicinal reasons. Aside from being a non-opioid option for pain management, scientists have found a component in cannabis that may inhibit cancer growth, and marijuana extracts have helped many people -- including children -- conquer conditions that debilitate them with frequent and painful seizures. Marijuana has also helped families deal with autism and a laundry list of other illnesses. With more than half the country legalizing medical marijuana in one form or another, it appears legislators agree: Helping people get better shouldn't be outlawed.

31. You won't get high the first time you smoke

If you don't get high the first time you smoke, you're probably doing it wrong. No worries! Even President Bill Clinton couldn't figure out how to inhale at first. Michael Armstrong, manager and budtender at famous (and legal!) Colorado dispensary LiveGreen Cannabissays, "Truth be told, I think a lot of people maybe aren't inhaling correctly their first time smoking, which would make them think it doesn't work."

32. Eating and smoking get the same results

Edible marijuana is having a renaissance in the age of semi-legal weed, but that doesn't mean you should start to scarf down 12 brownies, flip on your black light, and call it a day. Edibles tend to have more of a kick than smoked herb because the dosage is almost always more concentrated. And people tend to overdo it, because the high doesn't "kick in" right away, unlike with smoking. "We recommend people wait a full two hours before determining an edible 'doesn't work' and taking more," says Armstrong. "You could get higher than you want."

Learn from Maureen Dowd's mistakes.

33. Drinking the bong water will get you high

Nope. But go ahead, knock yourself out. I hope you're into violently puking... while sober. 

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. If his mom asks, he has no idea about any of this stuff. Follow him @wilfulton.