January 7th, 2014
08:01 PM ET
9 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. Most are idiots

    Difference is, pot is made solely to get someone stoned, alcohol isn't.

    January 7, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. MCP

    71% of people say Tobacco use is alright? Humans are not the brightest.

    January 7, 2014 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  3. Mary Carter

    I believe that it is worse and has caused more heartache, death and destruction in people's lives. However, liquor of all kinds is legal and a favorite of the government so I don't expect to see prohibition again.

    January 7, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  4. Smarter than ewe

    "Lets get ready to rumble!"

    January 7, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  5. Steve Lawson

    In conclusion, Marijuana is a safer alternative to Alcohol. Legalizing Marijuana would reduce Alcohol consumption and save lives. Keeping Marijuana illegal is causing unnecessary carnage.

    January 7, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  6. jeffrow63

    I have never understood why responsible use of cocaine, heroin or any other drug is considered morally wrong while getting drunk is ok. And yes there is such as responsible use.

    January 7, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  7. GetReal

    Doesn't mean it's good.

    January 7, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  8. Brian

    "morally wrong"? While it's nice to see more people wake up to the fact that drugs are not nearly as dangerous as they have been portrayed, it's disappointing to see such an overwhelming majority against legalizing all drugs. It's a personal choice and it's morally wrong to assume you have the right to make that choice for everyone else.

    January 7, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  9. Juan

    When is this joke of prohibition going to end. How are there still innocent people in jail for 10+ years for owning a plant like Marijuana when there are rapist going to jail for a month... Let those people go and make this legal already.

    January 7, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  10. Casey Nunez

    This is a no brainer, alcohol and tobacco destroy more families and lives than we are willing to see big Bro admit.
    Here in New Orleans there are actually drive thru alcoholic beverage outlets yet get caught with a Joint and face prison time. This is the sole reason that I am packing up and leaving the Corruption of Louisiana for Denver where the Grass really is Greener And Legal!!!

    January 7, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  11. JIMMY

    are you kidding me of course alcohol is a serious concoction the higher the proof the closer it resembles gasoline.

    January 7, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  12. JIMMY

    Poof!! ....you've just drank gasoline.

    January 7, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  13. tbone

    Pot is worse.

    January 7, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  14. John

    It's the alchohol lobbyists that want it kept illegal. People that both drink and smoke will not drink as much if weed is legally and readily available. Weed also kills the urge to drink...like water in fire.

    January 7, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  15. Carl

    Most Americans don't do pot.

    January 7, 2014 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  16. God

    This was never about safety. If it was mcdonalds, driving, and falling in love would all be outlawed. This is about money$$$$$$$$$$$$

    January 7, 2014 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  17. I told you so

    Poll Americans who think that more should be spent on education and rehab than incarceration. This country has spent trillions on the drug war only to make matters worse.

    January 7, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  18. India

    My ex smoked pot every day, its what led to our divorce and his health decline. No one can tell me different, it can distroy lives.

    January 7, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  19. joey

    This just in, two thirds of Americans believe the earth is round. Shocking.....

    January 7, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    tobacco is worse for you than pot? Come on. how about basing a report on actaul facts and not opinion polls. Why doesn't Cnn educate the masses.

    January 7, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  21. Phy

    It is a manifestation of our stupidity as a nation that many of us believe that marijuana use is safer than alcohol. Marijuana use has a much higher potential of dangerous drug addiction. A much higher percentage of weed users go on to narcotic abuse than do drinkers.

    January 7, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  22. drug addicts make excuses

    Well, most of America is uneducated. Here's a test:

    1. Take three men of identical average weight and height.
    2. The first smokes two cigarettes, the second drinks two beers, the third smokes two joints.
    3. Each gets in a car and drives...

    In which car would you want to be the passenger? Enough said.

    January 7, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  23. Steve

    Well fine. It does not mean pot should be legalized. It only means alcohol and tobacco should be banned too.

    January 7, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  24. David

    Lets see.....having a glass of wine with your dinner or inhaling marijuana smoke into your lungs for the sole purpose of getting high.....hmmmm. The glass of wine will not make you inebriated, it's healthier, and if you choose the right beverage, will compliment your meal. On the other hand, addicts smoking a drug do so to get inebriated, otherwise why consume it? It smells, so you can't smoke it in public, let alone be inebriated on it in public, it doesn't compliment anything and you're damaging your lungs with the smoke.

    January 7, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Pot has all of the benefits of both booze and tobacco.

    Set the bar low enough, and even pot looks good. Geeeeez!

    January 7, 2014 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
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