With marijuana use skyrocketing in Israel, the U.S. and the rest of the world, It’s time to talk about some of the myths surrounding marijuana use. In the past few years there has been a surge in marijuana consumption both medicinally and recreationally. What better demonstration of its widespread acceptance in mainstream culture than a recent article reporting the Orthodox Union’s approval of the first ever kosher certified edible medical marijuana products that are about to hit the market — and deeming their use a ‘mitzvah’ (religious virtue). Despite this, there are still so many myths and taboos surrounding the marijuana issue. Many people have been reaching out to me, to ask my thoughts, views and beliefs on this topic. As an addict in recovery — and an addiction counselor for the past 12 years, I’ve witnessed the full scope of marijuana use. In this post, I’ve decided to tackle four key myths as I see them — head on.

Myth Number One — Marijuana is a dangerous and illegal drug that should continue to be outlawed.

Most people are unaware of this, but marijuana has only been banned in the U.S. since the early 1920’s around the same time that The Prohibition came into effect. Up until that point, its use was widespread and common will little to no ill-effects. To draw parallels from the prohibition of alcohol, simply put it was a failed experiment. Not only didn’t it work, it increased organized crime and there is even evidence to suggest it increased alcohol use! My general approach is to accept and work with the reality. If you look at the current climate in the U.S. and the trends following worldwide, marijuana in one form or another is here to stay. Its part of our mainstream culture and this trend is unlikely going to reverse any time soon. Promoting a viewpoint that marijuana should continue to be outlawed is naive at best and outright foolish at worst. It’s ignoring the facts on the ground and causes people to be blinded to the marijuana related issues that are effecting our youth and adults alike.

Myth Number Two — Medical Marijuana is not real medicine, it’s just an excuse for people to get high.

Do a google search on peer reviewed journal articles on the topic of medical marijuana. You will find literally thousands of entries. There is now an unprecedented supply of evidence based empirical studies supporting the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana on a whole range of medical conditions, from epilepsy to chronic pain, to ADHD to cancer, and the list goes on. Not surprisingly, Israeli innovation is leading the global research in this field and we are already seeing new strains which have eliminated the THC and allow patients to receive the full benefits of the marijuana without the high. I have witnessed the almost miraculous transformation of a friend who was suffering from a cancer so aggressive that it left her too weak and unfit for chemotherapy. After using medical marijuana for several weeks, she regained the physical strength to battle her disease. Unfortunately, the cancer ultimately claimed her life, but the medicinal marijuana gave her the gift of restoring some quality of life and as sense of relief before she passed away.

I’m not in denial, there are those who use medical marijuana to self medicate for conditions that they should be getting conventional treatment for. Sure, there are also scores of individuals who abuse the medical marijuana program and use it as a means to get their hands on highly potent marijuana for recreational use. Notwithstanding this, the evidence is undeniably rock solid. Medical marijuana is a powerful medicine that has been proven to treat illnesses and improve quality of life for thousands of people worldwide.

Myth Number Three — Recreational Marijuana must be harmless, everyone I know is doing it!

Let’s be honest, marijuana is everywhere. In the Jewish world, the old stereotypes have long since dissolved. Parents and their teenagers alike, from all walks of life, all religious backgrounds are using marijuana on a regular basis. So, is it harmful? Like all substances, you need to go back to basics — It all comes down to why and how it’s being used. Take a working mother for example. She had a long week and wants to unwind on Thursday night and smoke a joint with some friends. In my book that’s understandable. But take the same mother, who is using the marijuana not to unwind but rather to avoid her pain. Her sense of unfulfillment in her marriage, her being overwhelmed with balancing her professional and domestic duties. When the Thursday night joint becomes a daily escape, it moves across the fine line of recreation to abuse.

But then there is the issue of edibles. In Colorado, the first state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use, there have been a number of children who were admitted to the hospital’s intensive-care unit due to a marijuana intoxication after getting their hands on their parents edible stash. One was too many.

In their eyes it’s just an innocent lollipop, gummy bear or brownie. If mommy and daddy let them eat those things then why should these be any different? This outrages me. Where is the common sense? Liquor cabinets traditionally had a lock on them for a reason — marijuana is no different.

What it boils down to is simple. Even if it is legal, and everyone around you is doing it, that doesn’t automatically make it safe. What may not be harmless to you as a grown adult, may be extremely harmful to a young child — if you are going to use, use responsibly.

Myth Number Four — Is marijuana addictive? How do I know if I need help?

It has long been said that marijuana is not addictive but new research seems to say otherwise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Yes, marijuana can be addictive. Over time, overstimulation of the endocannabinoid system by marijuana use can cause changes in the brain that lead to addiction, a condition in which a person cannot stop using a drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life.”

But at the same time, It has been known for decades that the effects of alcohol on the brain and body are much more severe and more addictive in nature. Yet its use has and continues to be widespread and socially acceptable.

As I said above, there is a fine line between recreation and abuse. the tricky part is that only you know when you cross that line. A few determining factors that you can use to make that assumption are; how often are you using it? Do you often say you don’t want to get high but end up doing it anyway? Why are you using it — is it really for recreation or are you trying to feel or rather, not feel something? If you feel like you may have a problem with marijuana use, don’t wait to find out. Reach out, make a call, help is readily available wherever you live.

The Bottom Line.

To sum up my thoughts, if you are going to use marijuana — use it safely. If you have a prescription and are using it under the care of a doctor, use it as prescribed.

There is a famous saying that with great power comes great responsibility. Marijuana is not a given, it is a privilege and with that privilege comes a great responsibility. We need to accept that people are using marijuana and that more and more states are going to make it legal. It is time that we focus our energies not on fighting it, but rather on educating people how to use it properly.

If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate. Email Mike at: BigMike@JerusalemSoberHouse.com. Together we will make a difference.