Even though cannabis is in many ways moving into the mainstream, it remains a highly controversial subject. Many of the debates surrounding marijuana have to do with either legalization or questions about whether or not it’s dangerous. And as presidential campaigns begin heating up, it’s likely that we’re going to hear and see a wide range of claims, arguments, and opinions having to do with cannabis. To help readers sift through the political rhetoric we’re all going to encounter in the coming months, here’s a quick overview of the most recent numbers and stats regarding how Americans really feel about marijuana.
As far as the legalization question goes, the clear majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis, both for medicinal and recreational uses.
A 2015 Gallup Poll found that 58% of Americans think marijuana should be legalized versus 40% who said it shouldn’t. A survey conducted by CBS News had a similar outcome: 53% support legalization and 43% do not. A Pew Research Center study on marijuana concluded that 53% of Americans support legalization while 44% said it shouldn’t be made legal.
The numbers are more pronounced when it comes to medicinal cannabis.
The CBS News poll found that 84% of Americans think doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana for patients with serious illnesses, compared to 13% who said they shouldn’t.
Interestingly, the consistent support for marijuana legalization doesn’t necessarily have to do with personal use.
While 53% of people in the CBS News study support legalization, only 43% of them have actually used marijuana.
The pro-cannabis climate these numbers seem to indicate is echoed in studies that have attempted to gauge the public’s sense of whether or not marijuana is dangerous.
A poll conducted jointly by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal asked respondents to rank a list of substances according to which they believed to be the most dangerous to a person’s health. Here’s what the final list looked like:
- Tobacco – 49%
- Alcohol – 24%
- Sugar – 15%
- Marijuana – 8%
- All or Unsure – 4%
In a similar study, CBS News found that 51% of Americans see alcohol as more dangerous than marijuana, and only 12% said marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.