New Poll Reflects America’s Changing Attitudes Toward Marijuana
The holdouts appear to be people age 69 and older
A recent survey by Yahoo News and The Marist Poll reveals, among other things, that people – regardless of whether they have children or not – are more concerned about kids smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol than they are about kids using marijuana. 
For the survey, 1,122 adults age 18 and older were polled from March 1 through March 7, 2017.
Overall, 52% of respondents said that they had tried marijuana at some point in their lives. Among women, 49% said that they’d used marijuana, while 55% of men said that they had done so.
A whopping 83% of those surveyed said that they approve of legalizing marijuana for medical treatment, and among men and women, there wasn’t much difference in opinion. Eighty-two percent and 83% said they were in favor of pot legalization for medical purposes, respectively.
Support for recreational marijuana was considerably more tempered. In total, 49% of respondents expressed support for legal recreational pot. That number is far lower compared with those who believe medical marijuana should be legal, but it’s still a good sign; In 2000, just over 30% of Americans supported legalizing recreational marijuana, according to Gallup polls.
When asked if using marijuana was socially acceptable, regardless of whether they believe it should be legal, 56% answered yes. More men (58%) than women (53%) said they consider marijuana use socially acceptable.
The surveyors split that same question up among parents, parents with adult children, parents with children under 18, and parents who use marijuana, and this is what they found, respectively:
- Parents – 50%
- Parents with adult children – 49%
- Parents with children under 18 – 51%
- Parents who use marijuana – 75%
One of the most telling signs that pot is going more mainstream is this finding: Among people who said they follow a religion, 45% said consider marijuana use socially acceptable.
The split in opinion over marijuana legalization among political parties is, well, what you would expect to see in a poll. Overall, 54% of registered voters believe marijuana is socially acceptable. The survey found that 65% of Democrats, 38% of Republicans, and 61% of Independents don’t consider marijuana use taboo.
In 2000, only 29% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans voiced support for marijuana legalization.
However, when it comes to pregnant mothers, Americans still view marijuana as something to be avoided. Only 21% of respondents overall said it is acceptable for a pregnant woman to use marijuana to reduce nausea or pain. Even among marijuana users, the percentage was relatively low: 40%. More men (23%) than women (19%) support marijuana use for nausea and pain in pregnant women. I would have expected these numbers to be lower.
When broken down into regions, the Western U.S. showed the most support for recreational marijuana, with 55% saying they favor legalization. The finding is unsurprising, since Colorado and Washington were the first U.S. states to regulate sales of recreational cannabis.
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Another 61% of respondents in the Western U.S. said they consider marijuana use to be socially acceptable, the highest percentage of all regions.
When asked whether they consider marijuana use a health risk, 51% of people overall answered yes. But, for the most part, people who’ve tried marijuana or regular users see it as less of a threat than those who never tried pot.
- Among those who never smoked cannabis, 64% consider it a health risk.
- Among those who tried pot at some point in their lives, just 39% view pot as a health risk.
- A mere 24% of regular users see any potential health threat.
Here’s where things get interesting, and you can truly see the shift in attitude about marijuana in the United States. When asked which they considered a bigger threat, regular marijuana use or regular tobacco use, 76% of respondents said tobacco is more dangerous than pot.
Among millennials, 87% consider tobacco to be riskier than pot. But marijuana continues to get a bad rep from some seniors; 47% of people age 69 and older see pot as the bigger threat. However, 73% of baby boomers (ages 51-69) point to tobacco as a bigger danger than cannabis.
Tobacco use was named as a bigger health risk than tobacco use by far in all regions of the U.S., as well as among parents of children of all ages, not to mention Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
When it comes to alcohol vs. marijuana, parents of all ages of children, both sexes, all four regions of the country, and all registered voters said regular alcohol use was more dangerous than regular marijuana use.
It appears that the nation’s opioid crisis has opened a lot of people’s eyes, as well, with all age groups but those 69 and over answering that a prescription opioid from a doctor is more of a health risk than a prescription for medical marijuana. The same was found in all regions of the country, among all levels of education, and regardless of income.
Even parents and those who practice a religion said they would trust the marijuana plant over a prescription painkiller when it comes to safely treating their ailments.
Will the Feds Crack Down on Marijuana with the New Presidency?
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is notoriously anti-legalization, has made comments hinting that the federal government may crack down on states where marijuana is legal. Here’s what respondents think of that:
- Overall, 30% of national adults believe the Trump administration should crack down harder on marijuana than the Obama administration.
- Overall, 38% of national adults think the Trump administration should be not as tough as the Obama administration.
- Overall, 27% of national adults say the current administration should be AS tough on marijuana as the Obama administration.
- Across all regions of the country, more people answered that the Trump administration should NOT be as tough on marijuana as the Obama administration.
Finally, respondents were asked what their most significant concern was about marijuana; and, like a Cheech and Chong meme, the #1 concern among national adults is that it’s illegal. Only 14% expressed concern that pot use could lead to harder drugs, and only 7% worry about addiction.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.