A new national Gallup poll has found that a solid majority of Americans believe that weed is better for society than alcohol, despite the prevalence of outdated reefer madness myths.
Gallup regularly keeps tabs on America's views toward cannabis legalization, but its latest Consumption poll takes a deeper dive into general opinions about weed and booze. The new poll reports that Americans' views on weed are pretty evenly divided, with 50% saying that marijuana has a negative effect on society and 49% supporting the opposite claim. A slight majority of respondents (53%) said that marijuana has a positive impact on the people that use it, though, compared to 45% that don't.
But although Americans may be ambivalent about cannabis as a whole, most are willing to acknowledge that alcohol is worse for everyone. Three-quarters of Americans agree that alcohol has a negative effect on society, and 71% believe that booze has a negative impact on those who drink it. A majority of drinkers even acknowledge that booze is bad for them personally (65%) and for society in general (71%).
About half of all respondents (48%) said that they had tried pot at least once in their lives, about the same percentage seen in other recent polls. This percentage has grown considerably since Gallup first asked this question in 1969, when only 4% of respondents admitted to getting high. In the current poll, 16% of Americans said that they regularly smoke weed, which is the highest percentage that the agency has ever recorded for that question.
Cross-referencing these answers brings up another very revealing finding: people who have actually used cannabis are far more likely to recognize its benefits. Seventy percent of people who have tried weed at least once believe it has a positive effect on users, and 66% of former or current users said that pot has a positive effect on society.
In contrast, 72% of people who have never touched the plant said that it is bad for society, and 62% of non-users believe that weed has negative effects on those who use it. These findings make it abundantly clear that people who have no experience with cannabis are far more likely to buy into reefer madness myths and other negative stigma.
Like most other surveys, the new poll reports that younger and more liberal people are more likely to be down with weed. Only 37% of adults over 55 think weed has a positive effect on society, but a majority of adults aged 18-54 believe the opposite is true. Only a third of Republicans (34%) admitted to having ever tried weed, compared with 55% of independents and 53% of Democrats.
And once again, the people who have never tried cannabis are the people who are most likely to oppose it. Most Republicans (64%) say that cannabis has a negative impact on society, while most Democrats (60%) believe that it has positive effects.
“This survey data indicates that personal experience with cannabis is a relatively surefire cure for ‘reefer madness,'” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a statement. “As greater percentages of adults continue to become familiar with marijuana for either therapeutic purposes or for their own personal use, expect to see many of the more sensational yet specious claims that once dominated the cannabis narrative be relegated to the dustbin of history.”
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