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.”
The pro medical marijuana movement has gained yet another powerful voice in favor of the Legalization Debate, allowing states to decide whether to allow patients to use marijuana to treat various diseases. In an interview with NBC’s David Gregory, former President Bill Clinton conceded that “there is a lot of evidence pointing toward the positive benefits of medical marijuana”.
The man who famously “didn’t inhale” said, “I think there are a lot of unresolved questions, but I think we should leave it to the states. This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going.”
Mr. Clinton is just the latest in a long line of influential people who seemingly agree that it is time to take a serious look at allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes. During his time as president, Barack Obama has tended to agree that the decision should be left up to the states, which has led to marijuana being legalized for various purposes in multiple states. So far, only Colorado and Washington are the only states to allow marijuana use for recreational purposes. However, the Republicans have largely opposed the effort to allow marijuana to be legalized for any purpose in the Legalization Debate.
Even the most staunch supporters of marijuana can’t know the long term effects of legalizing marijuana use, and Mr. Clinton feels that marijuana still should not be endorsed at the federal level until more is known about how the situations play out. He argues that states should be allowed to determine whether or not they want marijuana in their state, and then the experiments can be examined over time to determine whether this is something that should be pursued at the federal level.
That a prominent political figure would speak in such a way about marijuana, Clinton remains active in various projects around the world, reflects the progress that has been made by supporters of the legalization movement. Marijuana is no longer the social taboo that it was just 15 years ago, and this has changed it from being a politically untouchable issue into a mainstream cause.
Medical marijuana is now approved for use in 22 of the 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia, which is impressive considering where the movement stood just a few years ago. Although cannabis is approved for use in all these states, it does remain a Schedule 1 substance. Schedule 1 drugs include the most addictive substances on the market, and these substances are usually punishable with time in jail. The Food and Drug Administration is now reviewing this classification at the request of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
If people as prominent as Bill Clinton continue to endorse the experiments that are going on with medical marijuana, the movement is sure to continue to gain traction with voters. There hasn’t been a movement in the legalization debate like this since the controversy with alcohol in the Prohibition Era.
It’s an exciting time to be paying attention to politics and no matter what side of the fence someone stands on in relation to marijuana, it’s important to be informed about the current trends in the marijuana debate. It’s something that potentially affects everyone in the country.
Add another state to the list that will be legalizing marijuana use for medical reasons. The New York Senate voted 49-10 on June 19th to pass a bill (known as the “Compassionate Care Act”) legalizing access to medical marijuana in NYS. This Bill has been passed by both houses of the Legislature and is supported by Governor Cuomo.
Now that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law later this week, the focus has shifted from getting the bill passed to how it is going to be implemented. Gov. Cuomo has until July 5th to sign the bill, and an 18-month window will begin as soon as the bill is signed to begin creating regulations for the program, award contracts to grow the marijuana and decide what conditions should be included in the list of people who will have access to the drug.
Although other states are legalizing marijuana for medical use, the program that will be implemented in New York is going to look a little different than those in other states. For example, New York is going to place restrictions against smokable forms of marijuana. They are also going to limit the amount of dispensaries that will be allowed to grow and sell the drug. Initially, there are going to be five organizations that will be allowed to dispense the drug at four different locations each. This means that there will be no more than 20 dispensaries across the state of New York, and the locations are going to be regulated so that they will be evenly distributed throughout the state.
Some people remain apprehensive that this amount of locations is going to be able to appropriately serve the amount of people who are eligible for the drug. The Department of Health is going to maintain authority over what diseases and conditions are going to be eligible for the NYS medical marijuana. Right now, the list includes:
- HIV or AIDS
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal-Cord Injuries
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Huntington’s Disease
There are also five other conditions that are currently up in the air to receive status as diseases that would be eligible for NYS medical marijuana: Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. The health commissioner will have until the end of the 18-month window to determine which, if any, of these five will become eligible.
It is important to note that some still remain cautious about the potential of this program. While The Medical Society of New York State applauded the efforts to pass the bill, they also want everyone to know that there is still some risk to this movement. They warn that there is still potential for addiction to marijuana, which means that the program will need to be monitored closely to ensure that the proper procedures are being followed.
The “Compassionate Care Act” Will:
- Establish a certification and registry process for physicians to administer medical marijuana;
- Put in place a process for patients to obtain, and manufacturers to dispense, medical marijuana;
- Specify that the serious conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed are cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s Disease;
- Establish a Class-E felony for a practitioner that certifies an individual as eligible to facilitate the possession of medical marijuana if he or she knows or reasonably should know the person who is asking for it has no need for the medication;
- Establish a misdemeanor offense for recipients of medical marijuana that sell or trade the medication; and
- Create a 7% excise tax on every sale of medical marijuana by a registered organization to a certified patient or designated caregiver.
We applaud the bill’s sponsors, Senator Diane Savino and Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and the patients, family members and other advocates who worked so hard to secure its passage.
If you, or anyone you know, thinks that they are potentially eligible for medical marijuana, please visit www.marijuanaproducts.com to find a list of dispensaries as they open for business.