January 7th, 2014
08:01 PM ET
9 years 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. sober1

    living with an alcoholic is pure hell, i think its alot better to smoke weed, they're less obnoxious

    January 7, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  2. championsleaguer

    Ranked fourth the news stack....

    January 7, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  3. David

    What's next?

    Is marijuana less dangerous than soda?

    What about junk food?

    What about McDonalds?

    Marijuana is arguably not as bad as much of the legal substances we consume every day. You drink soda every day, you develop long term health problems, worse than marijuana use.

    January 7, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  4. paula

    Oh I agree, being drunk is much worse to control your motor skills than being high. You can drive alot better being high and I will be an advocate if need be to make sure some laws change. We should not use the same laws for being high as we do for being drunk. Their are certain levels of being high that you can still be in total control unless you mix it with alcohol. When you drink one drink can affect the way you drive and the point system will be affected. But using that with marajuana users would just be wrong. So I hope that with the States legalizing it they realize there should be new laws to protect the people from being scrutinized and charged wrong. Don't make this out to be a nitemare. I do not drink or smoke pot, but I have done both and I have driven while under both so I am speaking from eperience. It is much easier to drive high.

    January 7, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  5. Ipploit

    "Americans say marijuana is less dangerous than booze or tobacco"
    Yeah, and syphilis is less dangerous than HIV but that does not make it a good thing!

    January 7, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  6. N H

    How can you say that pot is less dangerous and cigarettes or cigars? It is the same exact thing as smoking tobacco with the exception of the added thc. So not only will it give you cancer like regular smoking, it also will make you loopy/stupid/whatever. And don't try to tell me it doesn't make you stupid, because it is a fact that Marijuana inhibits intelligence at THE VERY LEAST while the THC is still in your system, who knows what permanent damage it is doing.

    January 7, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  7. Larry L

    The record is clear on the medical and social consequences of alcohol and tobacco. Weed is nowhere nearly as dangerous and even beneficial in many ways. Yet hundreds of thousands of Americans have had their lives ruined by the justice system's archaic approach to the "War on Drugs". It's time to completely legalize pot and ruin the business opportunities of the drug cartels who profit from the current laws.

    January 7, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  8. Budley

    Not only is booze worse its much worse.

    January 7, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  9. rufus floyd

    We advertise beer and booze like it is the food of royalty. Every sporting event is advertised by beer and watched by kids. Are we really this stupid? I am afraid so!

    January 7, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  10. doug marcus

    you walk down an alley. on your right are the drunks, on the left are the potheads – which way do you lean? i don't condone it but i would feel much safer walking among the pothead pixies than the frats boys chugging jaeger.

    January 7, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  11. bstrict

    Legalize it all. Do a so called poll and see who does it all and that would be 90 percent of America. Most of all America does something. Get real people.

    January 7, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. ladies first

    seriously looking into the mirror and seeing the reflection staring back at you has got to make the earth move under your feet.

    January 7, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  13. Brad

    Booze kills your liver. Tobacco kills your lungs. Marijuana kills your credibility.

    January 7, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  14. Ron

    Drunk people drive through stop signs, high people wait for them to turn green.

    January 7, 2014 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  15. wassupUSA

    I disagree that tobacco is worse than weed, but strongly agree that booze is worse than weed... much worse.

    January 7, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  16. Homer10

    Wow. Sounds like the people are better educated than our polititions.

    January 7, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  17. Joe

    Agreed. I never understood why smoking something that gives you the munchies is outlawed while drinking something that makes you usually violent, make stupid decisions and irresponsible is all good.

    And I'm the occasional drinker. Around family, not to access. Still... my opinion.

    January 7, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  18. momzna

    Nonsense! Booze is better than pot, especially when the temperature drops below zero. Unlike pot, booze brings certainty in life,- when you are drunk, you are drunk. Take your time and contemplate your life, look at the stars, dream about the future etc. Pot, – one minute you are high, next minute you are where you've been before, – no time for serious thoughts. It's like having ADHD.

    January 7, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  19. ThomasE

    The percentage of people who think the government has a right telling them what they can put into their bodies is at 3%.

    January 7, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  20. Josh Sater

    News flash, CNN: Most have been saying this for decades.

    January 7, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  21. Mopery

    Alcohol is a known neurotoxin, damaging the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. Nicotine is a known poison, Native-American tribes used to dip their arrows in it to ensure the death of their enemies in battle. You can overdose and die by taking too much of either, in fact each year during "rush week" many young college students drink themselves to death in hazing rituals. Have you ever heard of anyone overdosing and dying from marijuana? It never happens, never has, never will. The amount of marijuana you'd have to smoke to die from THC poisoning is so great that you'd die from smoke inhalation before the THC could kill you. We need to end the Prohibition of Marijuana. Cut off the funding of the drug cartels by undercutting their prices, as selling for more than street value will not make the cartels' cash cow go away anytime soon. If you've never tried it then you really should, it will make you aware of how many lies have been fabricated by the government to demonize a beneficial plant.

    January 7, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  22. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    DUH! I don't smoke the stuff due to my job, but I agree. This will never cause a man to beat his wife or to make someone pass out behind the wheel. Let's get real now. "Reefer Madness" was released in 1936 yet the right wing acts like that comedic film is still relevent. Of course, most right wingers smoke it behind the scenes. Hypocrites!

    January 7, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  23. Name Uche Agonsi

    When you take marijuana, you inhale smoke and "get high" . These two things are exactly the effects smoking and drinking combined. Its therfore ironic for people to dislike alcoholism and smoking while loving marijuana..... I definitely would like to believe that the opinion polling was directed to people with long term experience in taking the three deadly substances,, viz booze, smoke and pot....that is the right members.

    January 7, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  24. TLORop

    Thats because marijuana is safer than booze. Have you ever heard of anyone dying of a marijuana overdose? More people have died from taking multivitamins than pot.

    January 7, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  25. marty

    Booze is just as bad as weed. But at least you cant get drunk unless you directly consume alcohol. This is like the people who say smoking weed is healthier than smoking cigarettes.

    I dont smoke weed or cigarettes. But which impares judgement, concentration, and reflexes used to do everyday things like drive a car or pay attention to work/school: tobacco or marijuana?

    January 7, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
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