That facebook post, instagram meme, or youtube video on CBD might not be as accurate as you think it is. Cannabis misinformation is rampant.
Cannabis is a fixture on your television, making the evening news daily and recent reality docuseries include High Profits on CNN, Pot Barons of Colorado on MSNBC, and Medicine Man on TruTV. There are now 1000s of blogs on cannabis, hundreds of nonprofits, and several mainstream magazines including Cannabis Now and High Times providing information on everything from growing weed to how the endocannabinoid system works. Even rapper turned entrepreneur Snoop Dogg has his own marijuana education and lifestyle network called Merry Jane. But is it this explosion of information helpful or accurate?
After reviewing websites for simple information like what receptor does the main ingredient in cannabis, THC activate, I was appalled by the amount of misinformation online. One error I continued to find was that THC activates only CB1 receptors and CBD, the second most common cannabinoid in cannabis, only activates CB2 receptors. In reality, THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors equally and CBD doesn’t activate either CB1 or CB2 receptors. This is a very basic concept, “what does cannabis do in your body,” yet by careless editing in the information age, misinformation spreads virally.
Why is there so much cannabis misinformation on the internet?
Many websites do not produce original information and instead show what is called an RSS feed, pulling original content from multiple websites for a constant stream of content. If one article is published with misinformation, it ends up being published on a thousand other sites, where it is cumulatively viewed by millions, and this misinformation is virally spread.
Even if a correction to the original article is made, the 1000s of websites that published the article with misinformation are not corrected. Misinformation on cannabis is truly a virus without a cure.
We live in the digital age where delayed gratification is not possible. We want our information now! Writers feel the demand to publish often and publish fast. Articles are often posted to social media channels with grammar errors and scientific errors, and authors rely on reader feedback to correct. Unfortunately, an article can be shared 100,000 times or more via popular Facebook pages, and these readers will not return to read the corrected article.
Not all writers of cannabis articles have experience in medicine, health, or science
Another problem is that many authors of articles on cannabis or the endocannabinoid system are self-taught. The endocannabinoid system is still not taught in medical school, so doctors are not publishing information on cannabis, and if they are, it is often rife with as many errors as articles written by people who are not health professionals.
Who then is a trusted source of cannabis information? I’ve worked to audit web pages of major cannabis brands, magazines, and nonprofits, providing a seal of approval on pages that contain accurate information on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. Sites like Veriheal and Weedmaps are working hard to provide evidence-based content on CBD, cannabis, and the endocannabinoid system to their users.
Cannabis research is moving faster than textbooks
Outdated information is not an intentional source of misinformation, but many articles continue to cite studies that have since been disproven through studies using better technology or bigger patient groups. Because most articles online don’t include references, it’s impossible to know whether they are using facts from studies done in the last five years or whether they are quoting old information.
Access to scientific journals on cannabis research is not always free
Lack of access to scientific journals is another reason for lack of updated and scientifically correct articles on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. Subscriptions to journal articles for doctors and scientists is paid for by their employers but are exorbitantly high in price for patients. When access to a single five-page journal article can cost $40 dollars or a scientific book is $300, we have a problem.
In 2019 there were 14,189 research studies related to cannabis, 19,405 with cannabinoids, or 22,061 with the term marijuana using the government search engine PubMed. There is no way patients or cannabis educators can afford to pay for general articles to keep informed and are forced to rely on mainstream media’s summaries of selected studies, which are often incorrect or skewed.
Where to find trusted information on cannabis
My book Vitamin Weed: A 4-Step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Endocannabinoid Deficiency provides a trusted source of information on the endocannabinoid system and cannabis as well as resources to dig further on your topic of interest.
If further assistance is needed you can contact Dr. Michele Ross for an online cannabis consultation.