January 7th, 2014
08:01 PM ET
7 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. John

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    January 8, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  2. Tampa Tim

    According to Bill O'Reilly, marijuana will led to texting on cell phones.

    January 8, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  3. vincastar

    Maybe they don't know that it stays pot stays in your system for 10 or more days. Most people's vacations are not that long so I don't know what lifestyle that would support. Plus when u smoke pot you are immediately high, When you drink alcohol you are only intoxicated after drinking too much.

    January 8, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  4. vincastar

    Most people may not know that pot stays in your system for 10 or more days and when you smoke it you are instantly high. When someone drinks alcohol they are not immediately intoxicated and can drink a little without becoming intoxicated.

    January 8, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  5. Kenyan Moses

    Hippies to say anything to justify the use of this nonsense. Suckin' any smoke into your lungs is bad. Deal with it.

    January 8, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. Brian

    What a lot of people forget to realize is that alcohol is a drug. That do not put it in the same category because its legal. The truth is alcohol is the most damaging of these drugs you can put in your system.

    January 8, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  7. smith

    Tobacco and pot=same thing. Alcohol is worse because over consumption can cause death (you can`t overdose on weed). However, weed makes you lazy, tired, slows motor function, and weak. Pot is like taking a percocet or soma pill and they require a perscription. Pot use or possesion should be a fine. No criminal record or punishment.

    January 8, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  8. Matthew smitson

    Its time to legalize no doubt about it, introducing marijuana into our markets as a intoxicant will create more revenue and more jobs than the nay Sayers want to admit. Hemp will also be introduced with this being done, and doing so will create even more jobs, with the improvement or obliteration of our outrageous laws that prohibit these two products, we can grow as a country and as people. Its obvious the only people really negatively effected by the legalization of these products are the timber industry, pharmaceutical companies, and the drug testing industry.

    January 8, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  9. williburns@gmail.com

    That headline is sort of a no-brainer no pun intended. However I would say that working in healthcare Alcohol and cigarettes the worst drugs there are. No drug has destroyed more lives then alcohol.

    January 8, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. Bama Mom

    In my opinion marijuana is a let less dangerous then alcohol. Someone smoking marijuana will eat and pass out where someone drinking will run out and have to go on a beer run putting lives in danger

    January 8, 2014 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  11. djak

    II learned about safety of marijuana in college, psychology courses. Basically, we did a side by side comparisons with all known drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, and marijuana turned out to be the least harmful of all of them in regards to long-term use effects, short-term use effects, and immediate side effects. Yes, any drug use is detrimental to general health, but marijuana is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, and history proves how successful prohibition was. Lifting the ban doesn't mean everyone should go out and start toking. Just stop throwing people in jail for it.

    January 8, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  12. The truth hurts

    I think the shift in thinking. The people are starting to realize that what the government says has no truth to it. Like the government tells everyone that there is no medical use for pot. This is interesting because if their was no medical purpose for pot, then why do the pharmaceutical companies make Marinol. The reason is this if the average person can treat pain from a plant grown in their basement you are cutting into profit with the pharmaceutical companies and that's not good since they call the shots. Doctors will say it's bad because they are backed and financed by the pharmaceutical companies. The next would be the FDA most board members are EX pharmaceutical big shots. The whole thing is a money game. REMEMBER ONE THING YOU CAN NOT MAKE MONEY FROM HEALTHY PEOPLE.......

    January 8, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  13. Name

    God made it. My god doesn't make mistakes.

    January 8, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  14. clearvoice

    We know Obama is a liar, we know Hillary is a liar and we know Biden is one fry short of a Big Mac.
    Thank Mr Gates for bringing to light what America already knows. The most corrupt administration since Nixon.

    January 8, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  15. joey

    This just in, two thirds of Americans don't believe the earth is flat.

    January 8, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  16. joey

    This isn't an opinion, it's basic reality. The article should read "apparently 25% of the American population believes alcohol is safer than marijuana, the earth is flat, and fairytales are real".

    January 8, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  17. Brion Eduardo

    It's high time to legalize cannabis for all adults from coast-to-coast and from the northern border to the southern one. And it's well past time for journalists to stop pluralizing the word "methamphetamine" unless you're going to be consistent and start using words such as "marijuanas" and "cocaines."

    January 8, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  18. Tampa Tim

    We know republicans could not find or report any truth. As for Lying, the GOP is the hands down leader.

    January 8, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. Nick Panagakis

    This poll questionnaire has missed something. Questions asked were general use of marijuana only.

    Respondents would have answered about medical use of marijuana; e.g., cancer. How many respondents would have supported medical marijuana only? The poll missed that segment of the population so overall we will never know.

    January 8, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  20. Malory Archer

    Whatever

    The scariest thing about this is all these nutjobs out there who think it's "morally wrong" to consume a powder made from a plant.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    "Morally wrong", not so much. Dangerous and destructive, absolutely. The chemicals used to process that plant into powder form are highly toxic, not to mention volatile. I've known a few users of that powder over the years, and every single one of them have lost jobs, homes, families, friends and in a few cases, their lives because of that powder, and I would be hard-pressed to welcome any of them into my home without hiding anything of value, because they are ALL thieves. So I guess the use of the powder made from a plant in itself isn't "morally wrong", but the behaviors resulting from its use certainly are.

    January 8, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  21. Gary W. Bowser

    Once again my name and email is plastered on another "comment" box, however, with courage I shall carry on...

    After my first joint in seminary, I thought "Where has this stuff been all my life" (Although do NOT recommend even in the slightest way that minors should use it, however the reality is that they are using marijuana and have been for some time {no surprise there} along with other script drugs from mom and dad's medicine cabinet...in any case, I have mostly used pot for some 40 years, no alcohol, quit smoking tobacco long time ago. I realize this is anecdotal, but just sayin' Something obvious: the lobbies for alcohol and tobacco have made sure both are "legal" with millions killed either directly or indirectly (both my father-in-law and brother-in-law died of alcoholism). I, like, millions of others have made a choice to not use those drugs, same thing works in principle with pot I would think, however lobbies, i e. Carnegie wanted to make rope out of something other than hemp decades ago so pot production disappeared. Please, no more "preachy" comments about poisoning our systems, think of dirty air, second-hand smoke, GMAs, blah, blah. Am sure only the converted with read this.

    January 8, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  22. tyler

    Vincastar – Do you truly believe you only become intoxicated after drinking too much? Studies have shown that threshold effects of alcohol begin after only one drink. Measurable threshold effects. Also, it is difficult for one to become overly-intoxicated using cannabis, while it is drastically easy to put down several drinks very quickly (perhaps one is thirsty?), and have the overwhelming effects catch up with you, and have you throwing up, incapacitated for quite some time. For example, if I were to smoke ten joints, I still would not be nearly as incapacitated as I would if I were to drink, say, five shots. Also, alcohol affects you by depriving your brain of oxygen, while cannabis reacts to specific endocannabinoid receptors in the brain for you to feel an effect. The former killing numerous times the number of brain cells as the latter.

    January 8, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  23. Malory Archer

    Nick Panagakis

    This poll questionnaire has missed something. Questions asked were general use of marijuana only.

    Respondents would have answered about medical use of marijuana; e.g., cancer. How many respondents would have supported medical marijuana only? The poll missed that segment of the population so overall we will never know.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yeah, except this poll pertained to full legalization.

    January 8, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  24. Malory Archer

    smith

    Tobacco and pot=same thing. Alcohol is worse because over consumption can cause death (you can`t overdose on weed). However, weed makes you lazy, tired, slows motor function, and weak. Pot is like taking a percocet or soma pill and they require a perscription. Pot use or possesion should be a fine. No criminal record or punishment.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Using cannibis is nothing like taking a percocet, and there are numerous strains of cannibis, including many that don't make you lazy, tired, slow motor function, and weak. That being said, just as some people shouldn't drink alcohol, there are those who shouldn't use cannibis.

    January 8, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  25. DW

    Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are all generally bad for you. If you choose not to partake in any of these, or other, substances, good on you. But let's get facts straight:

    Alcohol – a little loosens you up, a bit more gets you buzzed, and too much decreases your function. Mature adults can ingest a reasonable amount and still have a productive and clear-headed day the following day. Too much, though, and good luck for the next 6-24 hours. If not enjoyed in strict moderation, expect some liver damage and potentially lost brain cells. Moderately addictive and can become habit-forming and detrimental to lifestyle.

    Marijuana – a little loosens you up, a bit more gets you buzzed, and too much decreases your function. Mature adults can ingest a reasonable amount and still have a productive and clear-headed day the following day. Does all that sound familiar? As for overdoing it, expect a "haze" over your next morning/day. If not enjoyed in strict moderation, expect some lung damage and potentially lost brain cells. Minimally addictive but can become habit-forming and detrimental to lifestyle, though less frequently than alcohol.

    Tobacco – quantity consumed is of less importance. The buzz you achieve has a limit and will be brief. Mature adults can ingest a reasonable amount and continue to function normally, even in the brief (a couple minutes in extreme cases) buzz period. Even if enjoyed in moderation, can lead to lung damage, disease, and other health problems. If enjoyed liberally over the long term, odds of life-threatening problems skyrocket. Very addictive and often becomes habit-forming, although rarely detrimental to a lifestyle.

    Government control over where you consume these things is completely reasonable, but it is a clear infringement of liberty for any of these to be outright prohibited.

    Sincerely, an informed light/social user of the first two who previously enjoyed the third. Have a great day!

    January 8, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
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