Americans believe that cannabis is better than alcohol, according to recent research from the Gallup Poll, although respondents were divided on the question of whether cannabis is beneficial for society overall. In polling released earlier this month, 53% of Americans said marijuana positively affects the people who use it. In comparison, only 27% of those surveyed said that alcohol has a positive effect on drinkers.
When asked their views on marijuana’s effect on people, 9% said that weed has a very positive effect on people, while 44% said the effect was somewhat positive, according to cannabis polling released by Gallup on August 16. The research also showed that 30% think cannabis has a somewhat negative effect on users, and 15% said the herb has a very negative effect on the people who use it.
By contrast, polling on alcohol released on August 5 showed that 52% believe alcohol has a very negative effect on the people who use it, while 19% said drinking’s effect is very negative. Only 3% said alcohol has a very positive effect on drinkers, and 24% said drinking has a somewhat positive effect on alcohol users. Those who use marijuana had more favorable opinions of weed’s effect on users. Among those with experience with marijuana, 70% said that cannabis’ impact on people is positive, while only 29% of cannabis users said that marijuana has a negative effect on the people who use it. Interestingly, only 32% of drinkers said the effect of alcohol is positive, while nearly two-thirds (65%) believe alcohol’s impact on the people who use it is negative.
Americans Split on Cannabis’ Impact on Society
Americans’ views on the impact cannabis has on society were almost evenly divided, with 49% saying the effect was positive and 50% saying marijuana has a negative effect on society. Among those with a favorable view, 12% said marijuana’s effect on society is very positive, and 37% somewhat positive. Nearly a third (31%) said cannabis has a somewhat negative impact on society, while 19% said the effect is very negative.
Americans’ views on the effect of alcohol on society were less favorable, with 75% saying the effect is negative, including 55% who said the effect is somewhat negative and 20% who believe it is very negative. Less than a quarter of U.S. adults said that alcohol positively impacts the country, with 21% saying the effect is somewhat positive and only 2% saying booze has a positive impact on society.
While Americans’ views are that cannabis is better than alcohol, Gallup notes that marijuana continues to be illegal at the federal level. But with 38 states already enacting some sort of cannabis legalization and younger adults having a more favorable opinion of marijuana than their elders, continued reform seems inevitable.
“The future of marijuana legalization, at both the federal and state levels, may partly depend on what medical and other research studies show is the impact of the drug on users and society at large, particularly if its use continues to expand,” Gallup wrote in a report on the marijuana poll. “But with young people being more familiar and comfortable with marijuana, their greater tolerance may be destined to prevail over time.”
Research Backs Americans’ Views on Weed and Alcohol
Americans’ belief that marijuana is better than booze is supported by scientific research. Most importantly, cannabis has never killed anyone, while data from the National Institutes of Health show that 95,000 deaths in the US each year can be attributed to the health effects of alcohol, making alcohol consumption the third-leading preventable cause of death in the country. More than 1,600 deaths are caused by alcohol poisoning, while no known lethal dose of cannabis exists. Alcohol also increases the risk of injury, while research shows the opposite may be true for marijuana.
A study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research in 2011 found that 36% of hospitalized assaults and 21% of all injuries are attributable to alcohol use by the injured person. By contrast, some research shows that using marijuana may actually reduce the risk of injury.
Evidence also supports the belief that alcohol negatively impacts society more than marijuana. A 2003 study on the relationship between drugs and violence published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors reported that “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” whereas “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.” And the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 25-30% of violent crimes in the US are linked directly to the use of alcohol, while the government doesn’t track violence related to cannabis use.