By Chris Roberts
What’s a substance that is known to be addictive and cause health problems? Hint: it’s not marijuana.
Diabetes is a killer. Same with cirrhosis, lung cancer, and emphysema. Know what’s not deadly? Being happy, hungry, and, at some point, sleepy. However low your opinion of your fellow citizens’ collective intelligence may be, Americans grasp these facts. And for these reasons, most Americans view marijuana as less dangerous than sugar. In fact, according to a recent poll, Americans believe that weed is less harmful to their health than refined sugar, tobacco or alcohol.
The Results of The Poll
Most every poll released in the past few years shows that Americans’ attitudes have shifted significantly on marijuana legalization, and quickly. The poll released Friday by NBC News/Wall Street Journal is no exception.
According to the results of the poll, 60 percent of Americans polled said they favor marijuana legalization—an increase of five percentage points from when the news organizations asked the question in 2014. But the biggest shift appears to be changing perceptions of what substances are dangerous.
Pollsters asked which substance respondents felt was the most dangerous between tobacco, alcohol, sugar, and cannabis. 41 percent said tobacco was the top killer, 24 percent said it was alcohol, and—perhaps most surprisingly, but very accurately—21 percent identified sugar as the most dangerous substance.
Only nine percent of poll respondents said cannabis was the most dangerous substance, according to the poll.
Final Hit: Americans View Marijuana As Less Dangerous Than Sugar
This development is completely logical—fact-based, even—but it’s still a shift that will pleasantly surprise those of us subjected to decades of programming to the contrary.
Anyone older than 30 surely remembers suffering through a D.A.R.E. program in school. Several Justice Department studies revealed that the scare tactic-heavy curriculum didn’t work.
One reason could be that while police officers were in classrooms informing students how drugs would destroy their lives, childhood obesity was skyrocketing, 88,000 people a year were dying from alcohol abuse, and tobacco smoking continued to be the worldwide leader in otherwise-avoidable deaths.
There’s nothing quite like first-hand experience to compel change—and by now, nearly everyone knows someone killed by cigarettes, booze, or obesity. Marijuana still has yet to kill anyone. Maybe the only surprising thing about the poll is that nine percent of Americans are still clinging to an anti-factual, long-exploded ideology.