New Study Helps Dispel ‘Lazy Stoner’ Stereotype

The research shows pot smokers aren't the sedentary underachievers they're made out to be.

A young man passing a joint to his friend lying on the couch Source: Shutterstock

For decades, pot smokers have been cast as lazy misfits who’d rather get blazed and sit on the couch eating chips than go out and make something of themselves. In movie after movie and TV show after TV show, anyone who uses cannabis is immediately written off as rebellious or unserious at best, and unintelligent and criminal at worst. Even the word “stoned” gives marijuana users a bad rap, referring to the sedated feeling certain strains can give some individuals. 

There have been plenty of campaigns to try to disavow those rumors, and now a new study disproves them entirely.

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A new study published in the Harm Reduction Journal looked into the relationship between cannabis use and sedentary behavior versus physical activity. They found whether someone smokes weed has nothing to do with whether they’re lazy; in fact, it was just the opposite:

“Frequent cannabis users engaged in more physical activity than non-current users. Light cannabis users had greater odds of self-reporting physical activity compared to non-current users.”

That goes along with what various campaigns have been trying to tell people for some time now. 

Industry Campaigns to Alter Stereotypes

In 2018, a company called Medmen launched a $2 million campaign to show there is no “look” that the average pot-smoker may bear. 17 photos of people of all races and walks of life appear on billboards and other advertisements with the word “stoner” crossed out, and a description of the subject’s job replacing it. Meanwhile, a company called Lit.Club is packaging vape pens that are meant to appear high-class and respectable.

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The Los Angeles 420 Games hopes to bust the couch potato myth about those who dabble with dabs. It hosted a Jiu Jitsu tournament, a 4.2-mile run/walk, a BMX half-pipe show, and other athletic events, coupled with a rap battle, live comedy, food trucks and beer garden – all with the encouragement to show up already blazed.

Despite what’s now appearing in the media, the media itself has been a huge promoter of those stereotypes. People learn from what they see on their screens, and even lovable marijuana users are not presented as role models. That tendency persists, even though countless scientific studies have proven the depiction is inaccurage. 

Past Studies on Stoners

Scientific American disproved the claim that marijuana users are all dumb, and that the plant itself rots your brain. The magazine found that although there is interference with memory while high, the drug does not have lasting effects on cognitive abilities and does not lower your IQ. The Washington Post also pointed out that marijuana use is not always reflective of education level. The ACLU has been pointing out for decades that marijuana use is not tied to race, either – although prosecution of its use surely is. Use of cannabis is not linked to other criminal activity in any way, as multiple studies have shown time and time again. 

Even the “lazy liberal hippy” persona associated with weed in popular media doesn’t hold up in modern culture. The Pew Research Center shows 91% of people in the United States believe marijuana should be legal in some fashion, be it for recreational or medicinal use. It also found two-thirds of Americans support legalization of recreational cannabis. That includes 71% of Millennial Republicans, 55% of the Gen X GOP, and 49% of Right-leaning Boomers, averaging out to 55% of all people who vote red.

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The Harm Reduction Journal Study

The new study in Harm Reduction Journal may accomplish what all those advertisements and research products have been trying to do for years: question and disprove the stereotypes surrounding weed. It’s titled, “Cannabis use, sedentary behavior, and physical activity in a nationally representative sample of US adults.” It found, 

“There were no significant differences between non-current cannabis users and light, moderate, or frequent cannabis users in minutes per day spent in [sedentary behavior]. However, current users differed from non-current users in time engaged in [physical activity]. After controlling for all covariates, frequent cannabis users engaged in significantly greater amounts of light [physical activity] and [Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity] compared to non-current users.”

Researchers studied 2,092 participants between the ages of 20 and 59, just over half of whom were male. They grouped by their tendency to use marijuana and by their activity levels. Those group classifications included light, moderate, frequent, or non-current cannabis users, based on use over the past month. 

They found current cannabis users were younger, more likely to be white, male, had higher rates of upper-level education, had a lower BMI, and most were not impoverished. About half of the cannabis users surveyed were current cigarette users, and the average alcohol intake was 2 beverages per week.

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The study notes that less than a quarter of adults in the United States meet the recommended amount of regular physical activity, contributing to major health issues like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Previous studies have relied on self-reporting through questionnaires, which the researchers with the Harm Reduction Journal feel are not particularly reliable. 

When looking over data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found conflicting results. 8 years of NHANES data concluded current cannabis users were less likely to self-report physical activity than people who were not using marijuana; but a different study of ten years of data found lifetime cannabis users were more likely to be physically active than those who don’t use marijuana. The new study sought to clear things up with a 30-county questionnaire that went over specifics of physical activity, which the researchers believed would help people recall whether they’d worked out at all. 

For instance, rather than “Did you exercise this week?” the questionnaire might ask, “Have you gone on a run in the past 7 days?” or “Over the past 30 days, did you do moderate activities for at least 10 min that cause only light sweating or a slight to moderate increase in breathing or heart rate?”

In the end, the researchers with the new study believed their conclusions were much more accurate than studies that had been done previously, due to the method of the study itself.

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