The results of a major recent poll suggests that most Americans now view marijuana as less harmful than other common substances that are currently legal. The poll, conducted under the sponsorship of NBC News/The Wall Street Journal, suggests a major shift has occurred from the way Americans have traditionally looked at the risks associated with cannabis use.
In fact, the poll suggests that the perception of marijuana as a dangerous drug, which was once commonplace, has dropped dramatically in recent years, and is now, sugar is seen as being more harmful than marijuana.
In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the participants were asked how they rated cannabis, sugar, alcohol and tobacco in terms of how dangerous they considered each substance to be.
Tobacco was overwhelmingly considered the most dangerous, with nearly half of all participants, 49 percent, responding that they considered tobacco to be the most dangerous of the four substances listed. Alcohol was rated most dangerous by 24 percent, with sugar following with a 15% rating. Less than one in ten Americans, or 8 percent, considered marijuana to be the most dangerous substance. Sugar is seen as more harmful than marijuana, yet, we give sugar to our kids everyday.
The poll results are an ironic counterpoint to the attitude reflected in the way cannabis is treated legally by the federal government, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule One Controlled Substance. That is the same dangerousness classification in which LSD and heroin can also be found.
Yet, this latest poll suggests that the American people now consider marijuana use to be less dangerous than eating a sugary snack. Most Americans also consider cannabis to be less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, both of which are legal for adults.
Risks of Legal Drugs
The belief of many Americans that the use of tobacco, alcohol and sugar can be dangerous is backed by scientific studies showing that diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and premature death are all linked to the regular use of all three substances.
Although few people consider marijuana completely harmless, the sentiment appears overwhelming that most Americans do not consider the use of cannabis to be major health threat. There is no known documented case of a person proven to have died from a marijuana overdose. In the meantime, many people are suffering and dying form the effects of sugar.
Marijuana as Medicine
Perhaps even more ironically, studies indicate that marijuana has properties that are helpful to the treatment of a number of medical conditions such as cancer and AIDS. Cannabis has also been linked to improved psychological health, with suicide rates among young men actually lower among cannabis users.
So while cannabis is legally classified by the government as among the most dangerous of drugs, the facts suggest that marijuana can actually be beneficial to the physical and mental health of those who use it.
Time for Change?
The poll results reveal how the perception of most Americans has shifted in recent years towards a less critical viewpoint of the risks associated with marijuana use. The results suggest that Americans now consider cannabis to be less harmful than drugs that are currently legal, perhaps even less risky than eating a sugary diet. This change in public attitude supports the contention that any problems associated with marijuana should be regarded as primarily a public health issue rather than a matter for law enforcement.
Yet, current federal law continues to reflect policies based on a fear of marijuana that is no longer justified by either the facts nor the opinions of the American people. Therefore, this poll could be an indication that it might be time for a major reappraisal of marijuana policies in the United States.
NORML Depity Director, Paul Armentano, had commented on the poll results stating: “These results once again reaffirm that an overwhelming majority of the American public understands that any potential risks associated with the use or abuse of cannabis are relatively minor to those associated with many other legal and regulated substances. Criminalizing cannabis and those who consume it responsibly is a disproportionate public policy response to what is, at worst, a public health issue but not a criminal justice concern.”