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Most Americans now believe marijuana is less dangerous than booze, cigarettes

Jan 8, 2014

A week after Colorado implemented its legal sale of pot to anyone over the age of 21 (and sold $1 million of the stuff in its first day), CNN has conducted a poll to test Americans’ evolving attitudes about marijuana.

Not so surprising was that a majority of Americans now think that pot should be legalized—55%, up from 16% just 25 years ago. A figure such as 55% might sound like a slim majority, but consider that only 71% think that smoking cigarettes should remain legal and 81% think the the same for alcohol. Even the most mainstream of substances have a fair number of detractors.

But what’s more interesting is the number of people who think that marijuana is less physically dangerous than booze or smokes. Nearly 75% of Americans think pot is less dangerous than alcohol, while north of 60% think it’s less dangerous than smoking cigarettes.

CNN also polled people about the moral implications of pot and other harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. The results indicate an inverse correlation between perceived danger levels of the drugs, the moral underpinnings of using them, and their legal status.

For instance with more dangerous drugs that it’s possible to overdose on, most Americans found a moral problem with using them. About 80% of Americans said that using coke or heroin is morally wrong—likewise only 4% think the drugs should be legalized. (Just 3% think Meth should be legalized.)

But things get inconsistent when polled about the morality of smoking pot:

35% of those polled think smoking marijuana is morally wrong compared to 16% for alcohol and cigarettes, even though they think alcohol and cigarettes are more dangerous. Why would that be?

A century of locking people in cages and vilifying them as criminals probably probably doesn’t help the optics of morality. Likewise a century of advertising alcohol and cigarettes as cool and glamorous probably helped frame those substances in a favorable light.

But basic logic should dictate that a substance’s moral standing should come from whether it does harm, as should its legal status. Given enough time and enough accurate information Americans are starting to see America’s pot policy for what it is: A forced black market that imprisons millions and empowers foreign cartels, all over a substance less harmful than America’s time-honored vices of booze and cigarettes.

Say nothing of the fact that it’s immoral to cage humans for smoking marijuana, it no longer makes any sense given our understanding of the health risks.

CNN says its poll has a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.

Image: Shutterstock

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