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. Tolak

    Total agreement here.

    January 8, 2014 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  2. Preston

    The truth shall set you free!!!

    January 8, 2014 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  3. 13Directors

    I certainly think alcohol is as bad if not worse than alcohol. For one, you'll never see a pot head driving around in a blackout.

    January 8, 2014 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  4. Michael MN

    If you have ever drank alcohol you are a drug user , Just your drug of choice is legal

    January 8, 2014 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  5. Stan in SC

    The "gateway" argument was put forth to keep pot illegal and holds little to no water. I've know pot heads for years and not only do they not move on to harder drugs they are very much against their use. Just another ploy used by prohibitionists because many of their other ploys were disproven. Look up some of the old propaganda the prohibitionists used in the past. Many will make you shake your head at their audacity use of "facts" that are well known to be false.

    January 8, 2014 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  6. cdub

    This seems to be a topic that people want to avoid talking about, yet its at the point that-compared to 10 years ago-people are asking why it's not taxed and sold. I never thought I'd ever hear the day. Plus this is one of the few things that the majority of general America can agree on, and we need something big like this or immigration reform to show we can still govern ourselves, and that we also still retain some semblance of unity. Regardless of how large one wishes the government to be, we still must show that we can sustain it. Otherwise, what is the point?

    January 8, 2014 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  7. Stan in SC

    and use of "facts" – sorry

    January 8, 2014 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  8. J R Brown

    So, 71% of the people surveyed think tobacco use is ok...? Tobacco use leads to 500k deaths each year in the U.S. and hundreds of billions of dollars in treatment costs for those who don't die or later die from it. Clearly, the people who think tobacco use is "ok" don't have the intellect to understand what should or should not be "ok".
    Smoking is like holding up a sign to the world that says "I'm not smart enough to not poison myself to death".

    January 8, 2014 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  9. Bah Humbug

    History will repeat itself.

    January 8, 2014 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  10. Marie MD

    No it's not. I am all for legalizing it as long as it's used the correct way but that is not going to happen.
    Marijuana might be fine if you stay home and don't try to drive but using it and getting behind the wheel of a car is just as dangerous.
    What part of "DRUG" don't we get?

    January 8, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  11. david shoup

    All though my experience with both alcohol and marijuana ended 36 years ago, I agree alcohol is much the greater danger. I was a problem drinker and was unpredictable after imbibing, dangerous behind the wheel, and personality change for the worse. I switched to pot and found my personality was completely passive, no animosity, no aggression, no hangover. My spouse immediately saw this change. I decided after several months to live life without both. My only concern with pot is people that work or drive while high may feel they perform better . I do not think that is the case.

    January 8, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  12. Anonymous


    January 8, 2014 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  13. sammy750

    But the politicians love booze, since it generates so much tax dollars. They will make legal anything that generates lots of profits for them. Even though booze is a huge killer, politicians don't care. its like guns.

    January 8, 2014 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  14. Polecat

    Alcohol is a toxin which destroys the human body. Pot is medicinal. Common sense prevails.

    January 8, 2014 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  15. 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.

    January 8, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  16. humtake

    I still think it's hilarious that pot being less dangerous than alcohol is an opinion. But it's just like everything else, those who have no clue what they are talking about are louder than those that do.

    January 8, 2014 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  17. Bob

    Next they'll be saying pot laced with LSD or some other drug should be legal. One would think people eventually would grow up and stop using pot but there are people who can't live their lives without getting high off of something.

    January 8, 2014 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  18. xxdrzombiexx

    Um... booze IS worse than cannabis. Only morons still quibble about this. There is a mountain of factual data, not the lest of which is the 40-some-thousand deaths caused by alcohol and the ZERO DEATHS caused by mara-ju-wanna smokin'.

    The only discussion otherwise is called "lying".

    January 8, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  19. Steve


    January 8, 2014 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  20. jimmy

    Anyone can tell you that drunks can be mean and start drunken brawls. But potheads are nearly always docile and loving. If more people would smoke dope and leave the alcohol alone the world would be happy and mellow.

    January 8, 2014 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  21. First One

    public opinion does not mean that it is factual. Even a majority can be wrong. Where is the research to back up this opinion? There are a lot of rumors and false beliefs about how "Safe" marijuana is. there are definitely adverse health affects of the abuse of marijuana.

    January 8, 2014 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  22. Gurgyl

    If a guy wants to puff, he will just like congress guys from Republican Party any way. They lose. Anyway. No wonder these GOP guys did not pass ANY national dire needed laws. Because these animals of GOP were intoxicated.

    January 8, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  23. KieranH

    Yeah...ya think?

    January 8, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  24. dave

    They should just determine what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, then divide the groups, maybe have some sort of uniform for them, or maybe a spot or something on their forehead, or on their body somewhere. Then tax the heck out of those in the lesser group until they change over. Once we have everyone exactly the same, things will be wonderful, and people will become immortall, sort of like little Gods. Then they'd be looking for something else to make them better than the others, maybe one might be more holy than the other. Maybe the less holy could be taxed at a higher rate.

    January 8, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  25. Zooterpust

    Morally wrong? To me that seems like an misnomer for the use of drugs. Poor judgment, maybe, and reckless, but an act of immorality? This is probably a perfect example of how, back before government became a boogey man, government policy shaped public opinion. The key to ending drug-related violence and international trafficking is providing controlled legal access for those who truly want it and readily available treatment for those who want to escape it. Make the drugs unprofitable and the associated crime it vaporizes with the profits.

    January 8, 2014 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
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