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Americans Evolving Views of Cannabis and Alcohol

Americans Evolving Views of Cannabis and Alcohol

Adults in 19 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. can legally purchase cannabis for recreational use. However, all 50 states let adults purchase alcohol. A growing number of individuals and states believe that more states should let adults possess and consume recreational cannabis. Unfortunately, headlines don’t always accurately reflect how Americans feel about cannabis and alcohol.

Two recent surveys from Gallup show what people really think about using these substances.

Americans and Alcohol

When asked about the effects of alcohol on society, 75% of Americans surveyed say that the substance has a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” effect. Only 21% say that alcohol’s effect on society is “somewhat positive.” Only 2% think alcohol has a “very positive” effect.

Not surprisingly, non-drinkers had a more dire perspective. 85% of non-drinkers say that alcohol has a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” effect on society.

Drinkers don’t have a favorable outlook on alcohol either, although it’s notably less pronounced than the attitudes of non-drinkers. 65% of drinkers say that alcohol is “very negative” or “somewhat negative.” 26% of drinkers think alcohol has a “somewhat positive” influence. Even drinkers balk at the idea that alcohol is “very positive.” Only 2% of non-drinkers and drinkers give that response.

As a side note, the percentage of American imbibers hasn’t changed much over the decades. In 1939, 58% of American adults consumed alcohol. Use peaked at 71% in the late 1970s. Currently, about 67% of people say that they drink, at least occasionally.

Americans Have a More Favorable View of Cannabis

When asked about the effects of marijuana on society, Americans are evenly split: 50% think it’s negative and 49% think it’s positive.

Interestingly, a person’s experience with cannabis has a significant influence on their perspective. 66% of Americans who have tried marijuana say it has a somewhat or very positive effect on society. Only 27% of people who have never tried marijuana say it has a positive effect.

What about those who think cannabis has a negative effect on society? Seventy-two percent of people who have never tried marijuana say that its effect is somewhat or very negative. Only 35% of people who have used marijuana think it has a negative effect on society.

Given the correlation of trying cannabis and believing in its positive effects, these numbers will likely shift even further in favor of marijuana. In 1969, only 4% of Americans said that they had tried marijuana. The percentage stayed around 34% from 1985 to 2013. In 2022, 48% of Americans said that they had tried marijuana. Sixteen percent say that they currently smoke marijuana.

If the percentage of people who have tried marijuana keeps climbing, more people will probably have a favorable view of the plant’s influence on society.

Additionally, 60% of Americans say cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational use. Thirty-one percent want legal marijuana only for medical use. Just 8% of Americans don’t believe marijuana should be legal in any form.

Laws and Media Don’t Represent American Views

When you look at these two surveys, it’s clear that the average person thinks alcohol is more harmful than cannabis. Despite that, the majority of states do not allow recreational cannabis sales, while every state allows alcohol sales. The laws are out of sync with Americans.

The media also misrepresents the truth frequently. Even the Gallup titles make alcohol and cannabis sound equally negative. One is titled, “Most in U.S. Say Alcohol Adversely Affects Drinkers, Society.” The other is titled “Americans Not Convinced Marijuana Benefits Society.” These statements aren’t lies, but they also lack the surveys’ nuances.

Someone glancing at the headline would think that most Americans suspect that cannabis harms society. In reality, about half think cannabis is positive and the vast majority think it should be legal.

September 2, 2022Comments Off
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