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. bob

    Is this a frat house? Who calls it "booze"?

    January 8, 2014 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  2. Freedom Fighter

    If You want to keep kids safe, keep them away from booze, tobacco and prescription drugs. Data direct rom CDC dot gov show that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose in all recorded medical history, while tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs kill over 350,000 per year in the US.
    US CDC Figures directly from the CDC dot gov web site on numbers of deaths per year in the USA :
    Prescription Drugs: 237,485
    Tobacco: 81,323
    Alcohol: 39,199
    Marijuana 0, none, not a single death in all medical history
    Cited direct from CDC dot gov. Stop the lies and Legalize!

    January 8, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  3. Nancy Reagan

    Just say no to big tobacco

    January 8, 2014 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  4. JESSE CHRIST

    After all these years (80 or so?) The US Govt has done absolutely no testing on cannibis to show its harmful or beneficial effects. Really? More like the Drug Companies would stand to lose billion$ when their addictive deadly poisons are proved less effective than God's little weed. As singer Todd Snider said, They don't care about what drugs you're using as much as whose. But of course, as we saw in the passed week, an unprocessed, unsprayed weed that can be grown in your yard is now going for the Corporate Price of $400/ounce. Grow your own! Enjoy yourself.

    January 8, 2014 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  5. Mahadragon@hotmail.com

    I don't think pot should be legalized cause it's already legal in WA state where I live. It's already been legalized in other places like Colorado. This article is too late. The only discussion to be made is, why hasn't everyone else legalized it?

    January 8, 2014 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  6. Evert van Vliet

    All this really shows is how easy it is to influence the minds of the general public who then can go and cast 'their' votes.

    Democracy proves itself to be a case of hearsay by popular demand (a.k.a. dictatorship through pre-soaking brains) which takes decades to become to it's senses, if at all.

    In the meanwhile the planet gets raped to the point where nothing really matters any longer.

    January 8, 2014 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  7. Sean

    Only 4% and 3% of Americans think that heroin and methamphetamines should be legal, respectively, yet millions of people and even children are prescribed legal versions of these drugs every year. Our addiction to hard and damaging drugs in America doesn't seem too awful when we call our heroin percocet and our methamphetamines adderall, all the while our doctors are telling us we need them.

    January 8, 2014 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  8. BlackThought

    Well they're right weed is less dangerous so is khat.

    January 8, 2014 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  9. Willllburrrr

    Ever see a stoned guy beat up his lady? Ever seen a drunk guy do it?

    January 8, 2014 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  10. Dru Trips

    The other 25% must be alcoholics.

    January 8, 2014 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  11. major tom

    It's wrong for the pollster Holland to make assumptions about why people think pot should be legalized. A lot of people think that legalization will cut off money to the cartels, others want the tax revenue, and yet others feel legalization will remove the allure of the substance and decrease the public's experimentation with it.

    Holland as a pollster should be more responsible and not taint the results of the poll with assumptions.

    January 8, 2014 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  12. Future Idiocy

    But, it's smoking.

    More and more you get a wiff of that stupid stuff in the air... it's second hand weed smoke. Like its's something that will advance us. The more we go faster in innovations the more we go backwards.

    The bigger question is, why so many want to get high.

    January 8, 2014 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  13. Richard

    Once it becomes legal it will be just as bad or worse than alcohol.

    January 8, 2014 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
  14. Trist

    Right now rich people are working on a way to cause a general outbreak of some nasty fungus on all pot plants so that when pot becomes more legal they can be the only ones with a cure for the fungus.

    January 8, 2014 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  15. KEVIN

    Morbid obisity is worse then both and is completely the choice of the individual to become such.

    January 8, 2014 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  16. blerg

    Well, you can overdose pretty easily with alcohol. Can't do that with marijuana.

    January 8, 2014 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  17. J Robinson

    Alcohol consumption is the elephant in the room here. It is far more damaging and costly to individual and public health than marijuana, but like guns, any serious discussion about further limiting access to it off the table. Booze and weapons are sacred ground.

    January 8, 2014 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  18. Gerry Ellenson

    While it's probably true that alcohol does more societal and family damage than pot, those of us who have worked in mental health can attest that heavy use affects memory and intelligence at an early age. Those who use heavily have an "empty" quality about them. As in all things, moderation is the key.

    January 8, 2014 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  19. Pot Head

    "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.

    Right. Go smoke a bowl and tell me you're leaning towards heroin or cocaine... Once you smoke the reefer, you realize everything that is legal (alcohol, tobacco etc) is meant to kill. And everything BEYOND marijuana is a joke. Marijuana heals. Let us make 2014 be the year of acceptance.

    January 8, 2014 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  20. Gerry Ellenson

    P.S. As for being worse than tobacco, because of the way it's smoked, one joint can equal an entire pack of cigarettes in its impact on the lungs. Anecdote: I remember one troop talking to another in Vietnam. He was scolding him. "Look at you. You never smoked cigarettes, then you smoked pot and now you smoke." Maybe it's true that pot leads to worse drugs.

    January 8, 2014 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  21. Feele Goode

    And no CNN Poll for this ?

    January 8, 2014 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  22. steve coster

    CNN obviously WANTS pot to be legal, so let's just do it.... I mean; CNN KNOWS what is best for the country – look at the wonderful President they had elected..... Let Nancy Grace determine guilt; let the editorial staff decide the rest. Saves us all a lot of time and worry.

    January 8, 2014 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  23. Carl

    Tip-top. The news industry (CNN amongst other American "news" agencies) trumpet the epiphany that opinion dictates....whatever.. It doesn't matter which side of this weathered, dismal fence I might find myself, and it certainly matters not that I might cleave to the tiniest scrap of fact; OPINION – what people think by way of polls and other "news" dredge – dictate the headline of the day. WOOT. I am so overjoyed; PLEASE CNN do not let my mundane interest inthe slightest bit of fact deter your ADHD need to provide me with the latest popular opinion.

    A word, if I might – opinion is all to often mistaken for thought.

    January 8, 2014 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  24. Franky

    Why don't we not go by peoples opinions and go by medical fact. Alcohol is in fact medically listed as the 4th most dangerous drug, Cannabis doesn't even make the top 10.

    January 8, 2014 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  25. Doctor Fine

    And it only took 50 years for Americans to realize cannabis is just about harmless? Tens of millions of young lives ruined by the police and the courts.

    Billions of dollars wasted on a War on Drugs which teaches the young to completely disrespect the Law. Because the law has had it's head up its butt for 50 years.

    I know hundreds of folks who use cannabis and they are ALL healthier than your average alcohol and tobacco smoker. Heck cannabis has some indications it PREVENTS cancer for gosh sakes.

    There is only ONE reason it is a crime and you will be in prison if you touch it in some states-it is FREE if you grow it. And THAT has the tobacco and liquor industries PETRIFIED. These guys OWN Washington DC so the results are pretty predictable.

    Here in New Jersey our Governor hates cannabis. He refused to give it to a dying little girl who has cancer. He is a creep. We call him "the FAT boy." Don't fall for his act, America. He is a total tyrant.

    That is my two cents.

    January 8, 2014 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
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