The age of the stigmatization of cannabis is over, and we’re not sad to see it go. With California’s legalization of recreational cannabis came a whole new wave of customers that officially put the last nail in the coffin for the negative stereotypes surrounding cannabis. However, whether you’re hearing whispers lingering in your book club, condescending scoffs among your hiking buddies, or even eyes rolling at your local bar or club, you may still hear many common misconceptions about cannabis that keeps intelligent and open-minded adults from making informed decisions.

1. “It’s a gateway drug.”

One of the most common phrases you’ve heard about cannabis since childhood implies that after trying cannabis once, it’s a slippery slope to doing meth in dark alley ways and injecting Tide Pods directly into our limbs. Okay, maybe not the latter, but there still remains a cloud of concern that surrounds cannabis as a gateway drug.

A study conducted in 1999 at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences released an eye-opening report investigating the potential hazards of cannabis. The conclusion is made that “In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana … In the senses that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a “gateway” drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, ‘gateway’ to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” ( Although one may come before another, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s causally linked.

2. “It makes you stupid and unmotivated.”

Cannabis consumers come in the form of Olympic medalists, devoted parents, successful entrepreneurs and CEOs, meticulous engineers, passionate teachers, and the list goes on. The “lazy hippie” stereotype is outdated in the same way that not every alcohol consumer can be seen drinking out of a paper bag under a bridge.

A study published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. compared people who were using cannabis 7 days/week to those using none at all with surveys based on their own cannabis use, attitudes, and their feelings of motivation. Based on their findings, the study was able to conclude with certainty, “Daily use of cannabis does not impair motivation.” ( The reason this sounds subjective is because it is subjective. A sense of motivation is hard to quantify.

However, another speculation is that the stereotype that surrounds cannabis — that it makes you “lazy” — gets into the heads of consumers, who then give themselves permission to veg out. While certain strains have proven uplifting and motivating effects, and studies like the above have been conducted to show otherwise, people still see the stereotype and it may subconsciously be affecting the consumer’s mindset going into the experience.

Our conclusion is, while you may relax and chill with cannabis, it’s not your only option, and it’s not the only effect you can experience.

3. “It’s illegal because it’s dangerous.”

This is a common concern among any law-abiding citizen. However, when you look into the strange and sinister history of the criminalization of cannabis, you will learn that there is a long history of racism and fear-based propaganda.

In 1930, Harry Anslinger served as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. As prohibition came to an end, Anslinger worried about getting their funding cut and their department shut down. He therefore had to find a new chemical to demonize to stay afloat. So, he capitalized on the racial tension and testified before Congress supporting Marihuana Tax Act 1937, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.” (
Anslinger pontificated, “How many murders, suicides, robberies, criminal assaults, holdups, burglaries and deeds of maniacal insanity [cannabis] causes each year…No one knows, when he places a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a joyous reveler in a musical heaven, a mad insensate, a calm philosopher, or a murderer…” (“Marijuana — Assassin of Youth” in The American Magazine, Vol. 24 (July 1937), p. 18) Anslinger planted the seed that resulted in the first mandatory minimum sentence for cannabis possession.

And it doesn’t end there. Scientists soon learned the claims made by Anslinger were incorrect, and that cannabis’s effects, in fact, weren’t responsible for inducing violence or insanity (National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse 1973). By the time this information became common knowledge in the political circle, Nixon had a choice whether to decriminalize, or to continue to demonize. You may think that, with the above scientific information, he’d make a logical choice. However, Nixon’s aide, John Ehrlichman, released a chilling statement in 1994 to explain why Nixon did the opposite, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” (Harper’s, April 2016.)

With any mind-altering substance, moderation is key. While the long-term effects are minimal for adults, it’s a different story when it comes to children (much like alcohol and nicotine). If you are able to respect the plant, respect the law, and bring loved ones together, then you have every right to alleviate pain and enjoy responsibly without shame or paranoia. What are some misconceptions you’ve heard about cannabis?