Sunday, August 21, 2022

Poll: Americans (Especially Women) Think Marijuana Is Less Harmful Than Alcohol

Jeany smokes a joint at the Berner’s on Haight dispensary in San Francisco in 2020.
 Jessica Christian/The Chronicle 
A new Gallup poll finds that Americans, especially women, find alcohol much more of a danger to individuals and society than marijuana, even though fewer of them say they use it than do men. 

The pollsters write: 

The poll found that Americans are evenly split in their views about marijuana's effect on society, with 49% considering it positive and 50% negative. They are slightly more positive about the drug's effect on people who use it, with 53% [including 55% of women] saying it's positive and 45% negative.

The same poll found that three in four adults [including 80% of women] believe that alcohol negatively affects society, and 71% [including 76% of women] think it is harmful to drinkers.  Yet, these perceived negative effects of alcohol are not enough to discourage Americans from imbibing, as two in three say they personally have the occasion to drink alcoholic beverages.

Asked about the effect of marijuana on most people, 10% of men and 8% of women agreed it's "very positive," with only 41% of men but 47% of women saying it's "somewhat positive." On the "somewhat negative" side, 32% of men and only 28% of women agreed, and "very negative" came in at 15% for men and 16% for women. 

On the effect of marijuana on society, 12% of men and 11% of women thought it was "very positive" and 36% of men and 37% of women said it was "somewhat positive." Only 18% of women and 20% of men said the effect was "very negative" and 31% of men and 33% of women think it's "somewhat negative." 

For alcohol, only 9% of females and 18% of males thought its effects on people were "very positive"; only 21% of females and 27% of males consider it "somewhat positive." Fifty-six percent of females and 49% of males said it's "somewhat negative" and 20% of females and 17% of males consider it very negative. As to alcohol's effects on society, the gender split is a bit wider: only 5% of females and 16% of males consider it "very positive": 18% of females and 24% of males call it "somewhat positive." On the negative side, 59% of women vs. 52% of men consider it "somewhat negative" and 21% of women vs. 19% of men say it's "very negative." 

So that while 51% of men and 55% of women think that marijuana's effect on users is very positive or somewhat positive, only 45% of men and 30% of women think the same of alcohol. As far as societal effects, 48-49% of both men and women think marijuana has positive effects, but only 40% of men and 23% of women think alcohol does.

On the marijuana usage questions, 53% of males and only 42% of females said they had tried marijuana, and only 14% of women versus 18% of men said they smoke it. For edibles, the figures were closer: 13% of females vs. 14% of males say they consume edibles. This must mean that many women who don't use or have even tried marijuana think it's much less harmful than alcohol, for individuals as well as society.  The authors write: 

Large majorities of adults who say they have ever tried marijuana -- which is nearly half of Americans -- think marijuana's effects on users (70%) and society at large (66%) are positive. Conversely, the majority of those who have never tried marijuana think its effects are negative: 72% say this about its effect on society and 62% about its effect on users.

Overall, 30% of those aged 18-34 say they smoke marijuana and 22% say they use edibles; for those age 35-54 it's 16%, with only 7% of those 55 and over responding that they either smoke marijuana or take edibles. Nearly a majority in each age group has tried marijuana: 51% for 18-34 year olds, 49% for those aged 35-54,  and 44% for those over 55. This is the first Gallup poll to include edibles; can topicals be far behind? 

According to Gallup's latest measure, 68% of US adults, tied for the record high, think marijuana should be legal. 

Another interesting poll found that two in five Americans say they've changed their minds on drug policy, with the majority becoming more liberal.  

The YouGov survey brought up a variety of topics, asking respondents to identify which ones they've changed their minds about, and if so how. Of the 11 topics included in the survey, drug policy came in second place, with 40% of respondents (42% of males and 38% of females) indicating their position on the issue had shifted. In the poll, 48% of males and 47% of females said their opinion changed to a more liberal viewpoint, while 28% of females and only 25% of males said they became more conservative. 

Asked what factors influenced their shift, the #1 reason with respect to drug policy was “new facts or information” at 50 percent overall, including 48% of men and 52% of women. Women were also more influenced than men by "events occurring in the world that caused you to rethink your opinion" (44% of women vs. 35% of men) and "personal experiences related to the issue" (37% of women vs. 29% of men). 

Affecting both genders equally at 32% was "conversations they've had with other people about the issue." So be sure to have those conversations, and have the facts on hand when you do. 

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