Americans are twice as likely to say that alcohol is “very harmful” than say the same about marijuana, according to a survey released on Monday.
In fact, far more respondents described alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes—all legal, regulated products—as seriously dangerous. The number of Americans who said that tobacco cigarettes are “very dangerous” is more than three times the share who believe that about cannabis, which the federal government continues to classify as an illegal Schedule I substance.
Asked to rate the harmfulness of the four products, only 26 percent said marijuana is very dangerous, whereas 27 percent said it was “somewhat harmful,” 26 percent said it is “not too harmful” and a surprising 18 percent said marijuana is “not harmful at all.”
Compare that to alcohol, which is widely available and legal for adults 21 and older. About twice as many respondents (51 percent) said that alcohol is “very harmful” than did so for marijuana, and just two percent said alcohol isn’t dangerous at all.
Tobacco cigarettes topped the list in terms of perceived harmfulness, with 81 percent stating that the product is very dangerous and just one percent contending that there’s no risk.
The survey, which was produced by Politico and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and involved phone interviews with over 1,000 adults, also broke down responses by political affiliation. By and large, Republicans, Democrats and independents are in consensus in terms of how they perceive the harmfulness of each product.
For marijuana, 25 percent of Democrats said it is very harmful, while 26 percent of Republicans and independents said the same. Democrats and independents were equally likely to say that cannabis isn’t at all harmful (19 percent), compared to 14 percent of Republican respondents.
The poll reflects a trend that seems connected to legalization efforts across the country, which generally involve educational campaigns aimed at debunking drug war propaganda about marijuana and highlighting the relative safety of cannabis compared to legal, recreational substances.
At the same time that relatively few Americans regard marijuana as seriously harmful, perceptions of the immorality of using cannabis are also notably low, according to a separate survey released last year. Gallup found that 65 percent of respondents considered smoking marijuana “morally acceptable,” whereas fewer said the same about watching porn, the death penalty and cloning animals, for example.
But while perceptions of marijuana’s risks are declining, that hasn’t been associated with a corresponding increase in underage usage. That finding comes from a federally funded national survey that was published last week.
Photo courtesy of Rick Proctor.