Hats off to Mason Tvert, Paul Armentano and Steve Fox. When they released their seminal book, “Marijuana is Safer than Alcohol -- So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” the country was divided on whether that statement was true. Now, according to the latest CNN poll, nearly three-out-of-four (74%) Americans believe alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis.
This is a fact now recognized by every demographic. Where support for prohibition still exists among people over age 65, a plurality (47%) of seniors believe marijuana is safer than alcohol, compared to about a quarter (26%) who think they’re equally dangerous and a quarter (25%) who think marijuana is more dangerous. Among ages 50-64, “marijuana is safer” comes in at 74% and more than four-out-of-five of people under age 50 know this fact.
Even rural conservative Republican Southerners, the groups we identified yesterday that still support prohibition, understand that alcohol is the more dangerous drug. Conservatives and Republicans come in at 62%, rural residents at 69%, and Southerners at 72%. This bodes well for the future of marijuana legalization, as MPP’s Steve Fox identified in 2004 that people who understand “marijuana is safer” are much more likely to support legalization.
CNN also asked about tobacco compared to marijuana. Despite tobacco being the drug leading to the most deaths in America, far more than alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs combined, Americans view it more favorably with respect to safety. Almost two-thirds (64%) believe tobacco is more dangerous than marijuana and almost a quarter (23%) incredibly believe marijuana is more dangerous.
When asked about the relative morality of marijuana vs. alcohol, however, Americans by more than a two-to-one margin feel marijuana use is immoral compared to alcohol drinking. Only one-sixth (16%) believe drinking is a vice compared to over a third (35%) who felt toking is morally wrong. Perhaps this owes to Americans who just believe breaking the law is wrong; the poll found only 30% believed this in the West, where two states have legal marijuana.
This is the same poll that identified 55% support for marijuana legalization nationwide. It also asked whether alcohol and tobacco should be (or remain) legal. Overwhelmingly Americans oppose prohibition of these currently legal drugs, with 81% supporting legal alcohol and 71% supporting legal tobacco.
And as far as Kevin Sabet’s slippery slope fear that legalizing marijuana means legal meth is just around the corner? The poll showed 4% support for the legalization of heroin or cocaine and 3% support for legalization of methamphetamine. Nearly four-out-of-five Americans believe the use of cocaine (78%) or heroin (80%) is morally wrong.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."