January 7th, 2014
08:01 PM ET
11 months ago

CNN Poll: Americans say marijuana is less dangerous than booze or tobacco

Washington (CNN) - Americans appear to view marijuana in a class by itself.

According to a new national poll, marijuana is not as wicked as other illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, and much less dangerous than legal substances like alcohol and tobacco.

That's one reason why a CNN/ORC International survey indicates that support for legalizing marijuana is soaring, and why that same support does not extend to hard drugs.

A CNN/ORC poll released Monday showed that 55% of all Americans think that the use of marijuana should be legal - a solid majority and more than triple the 16% who said the same thing a quarter century ago. But according to numbers released Tuesday, the percentage is nowhere near as high as the 81% who say alcohol should remain legal or the 71% who believe that tobacco use is OK.

Yet, despite the high numbers who think alcohol and tobacco should be legal, nearly three-quarters say that booze is more dangerous than pot, and more than six in 10 think the same thing about cigarettes and cigars.

The numbers on alcohol and marijuana is a major switch from four decades ago, when Americans were split on which was more dangerous to use.

"The logical conclusion: Many Americans believe that if more dangerous substances like alcohol and tobacco are legal, marijuana should be, too," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

What about harder drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines, better known as crystal meth?

According to the poll, Americans almost unanimously agree that those substances should remain illegal. Only 4% say that cocaine and heroin should be legalized; only 3% feel that way about methamphetamines.

There is a notable moral dimension to how Americans feel about harder drugs that does not apply to marijuana or alcohol: Roughly eight in 10 questioned in the poll say that using heroin or cocaine is morally wrong. As CNN reported on Monday, only 35% feel that way about marijuana, about half the number who felt that way in the 1980s. And only 16% say that drinking alcohol is morally wrong, down from 38% a quarter century ago.

"Once again, opinions on marijuana seem to represent a halfway point between generally accepted substances like alcohol and widely reviled substances like cocaine and heroin," Holland said.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from January 3 to 5, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

soundoff (183 Responses)
  1. ug

    No it isn't...it is worse and now we will have a nation of more potheads...just job security for the cops...liars for hire and judges and lawmakers...

    January 7, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. alkoholic

    Wow....took how many years and lives ruined to figure this out ??

    January 7, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  3. gtothreg

    DUH!!!!! 99% of people I know have been saying this for 20 years. Thanks CNN, you finally caught up to the times. OR, you probably finally aligned yourself to the cause in some financial way. Its about time.

    January 7, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. REALLY

    What genius figured that one out? Which has killed the most people? Which is actually addictive? This doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out...

    January 7, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  5. coderjones

    how many humans have overdosed on marijuana?
    how many humans have overdosed on alcohol?

    i rest my case

    January 7, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. Just

    Indeed. The people who have never toked but have strong negative opinions on this issue.

    January 7, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  7. bob

    ... And another articles says Americans read at 5th grade level. Coincidence? Happenstance?

    January 7, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. Hooper

    Legalize it, then tax the hell out of it. Here's the one and only reason it will get legalized. Not because it's less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, but because there's a possibility for windfall to the coffers where more and more political graft can go on. Ask yourself this question: Where would we be today if politicians had been truthful and kept their lying stinking hands off the bountiful revenues generated since the early 1990's. Revenues that were squandered on two (count em), two unfunded wars. Stinking lying republicans.

    January 7, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  9. JW

    And the government will still dig in their heels about de-criminalizing it. Make it legal. Tax it. Make TONS of new money.

    January 7, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  10. Fred Evil

    No question alcohol is worse. It's more addictive, it can kill you through withdrawal as well as via alcohol poisoning.
    Pot ain't harmless, but it is several orders of magnitude safer than liquor.

    January 7, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  11. Herman

    Hey all you righteous do gooders , be not deceived. There is a ginormous number of people of all agrs who smoke the weed the government you abhor outlaws. Get over it, let the government tax pot and allow people to live the lifestyle they choose.

    January 7, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. shon williams

    I love beer, but it makes people do or say regretful things that weed doesn't. Weed makes people laugh, liquor makes people fight. Beer makes you speed in a car, weed makes you drive slower.

    January 7, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  13. RBS

    If 81% of people think alcohol should be legal, yet 75% think alcohol is worse than pot, how can only 55% think weed should be legal? What is the matter with people!?!?!

    January 7, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  14. George

    CNN is decades behind in reporting this as the thought-beat of America.

    January 7, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  15. Jamielee

    I've done all three and 100% agree marijuana has less effect and less habit forming than manufactured tobacco or alcohol.

    January 7, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  16. Everett

    Booze is what should be illegal, and I'm going to make it my life's work to make it so. Sounds stupid doesn't it?

    January 7, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  17. Bombastic

    If you ever tried weed and booze then you know this is true.

    January 7, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  18. dvmil

    Well duh.

    January 7, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  19. jon

    I can only hope they did not spend too much time on this study. Duh!

    January 7, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  20. Mike Hoksohard

    The land of hypocrisy! You can have a gun that can fire 100 rounds to protect yourself from the government and their drones and fighter jets but can't smoke a joint. I have worked were people are drunk and on prescription poison but people ARe scared someone might smoke a j. You can't stop the other scum don't punish the plant

    January 7, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  21. akapk47

    This is nothing new. Is it all of a sudden worthy of talk because of a couple states' legalizations?

    January 7, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  22. keb

    Soon enough so many more will find that marijuana is one of the best medicines for so many ailments , diabetes , ms , cancer , the list is so long .

    January 7, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  23. Kris in AL

    Great logic.......Marijuana isn't as bad as alcohol, so lets legalize it!

    Similar logic..... Dying from jumping off a bridge is less traumatic and messy than is jumping off a building.

    January 7, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  24. Mark

    The whole "booze is worse the pot" thing is completely ridiculous. All these substances are unique and have their own risks. Booze and cigarettes are completely different too. Both can do tremendous damage to your body but for completely different reasons. Shallow people just look at booze and pot and think they belong in the same group because their both used to get messed up and avoid real life. What they fall to realize is that booze can be drunk in moderation and can actually be quite healthy. If you smoke pot you're getting high!!! It diminishes your ability to appreciate reality and it exacerbates any predilection towards mental illness. I'm in my 30's and I know many people who were and are regular pot smokers. The reality is nothing like the hype you see on tv. I don't envy any of them. They always seem depressed or unstable.

    January 7, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  25. Colorado

    I say legalize...tax it...use the money for healthcare for all.

    January 7, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
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