February 21, 2024

Americans say tobacco and booze are more harmful than cannabis, and by wide margins want the drug legalized and convicts pardoned for minor offenses, a survey says — the latest sign of a growing social acceptance of pot.

A Monmouth University Poll released this week found that 54 percent of Americans say drinking alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, while 45 percent rate tobacco as more harmful than pot.

The survey of 808 adults is just the latest indicator of growing acceptance of pot, as voters in five states gear up to decide in next month’s midterm elections whether to allow recreational weed for residents aged over 21.

Still, experts warn against America’s speedy switch to legalizing cannabis, particularly for young people, and DailyMail.com has spoken with many parents who watched their children lose their minds — and even their lives — due to pot.

‘Support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past 20 years,’ Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said in a statement.

More than two thirds of those surveyed also said they backed legalizing the possession of small amounts of pot for personal use, and President Joe Biden’s pardons for people convicted on federal charges for simple marijuana possession.

Biden, who had hitherto resisted efforts to decriminalize pot, this month pardoned thousands of federal convicts for pot possession and urged governors to quash state convictions, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases.

In a statement, the Democrat leader said ‘too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana’ and that ‘no one should be in jail just for using or possessing’.

‘Biden’s action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue, added Murray.

While the poll indicated broad support for efforts to decriminalize cannabis, and its psychoactive ingredient THC, Democrats and political independents were more supportive of the moves than Republicans.

It echoes findings by Morning Consult, another pollster, that Americans widely support the executive action and further want to see cannabis downgraded in federal law — it is currently a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD.   

Cannabis looks set to become legally available to millions more Americans within months, with broad support for Biden’s move and ballot measures in five states in next month’s midterm elections.

Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota will in November decide whether to legalize weed for residents age 21 or older, changing the rules in states with a combined population of nearly 16 million. 

They would join the 19 states and territories that already permit recreational pot, and leave about half of the U.S. population living in areas where the possession and use of pot are legal for adults. 

A total of 38 states permit marijuana for medical use. 

In the coming years, voters in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio will also hold ballot measures on legalizing pot. 

Marijuana dispensary manager LeRoy Roybal of Santa Fe, New Mexico, preparing for the opening of the state's regulated pot market in April

Marijuana dispensary manager LeRoy Roybal of Santa Fe, New Mexico, preparing for the opening of the state’s regulated pot market in April

Support for legalization in Maryland is particularly high, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released this month — 73 percent are in favor of letting over-21s get high. 

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, in July launched his long-awaited bill to decriminalize weed at the federal level and let states set their own rules — but it made no progress in the chamber.

Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told DailyMail.com that young people using cannabis was a 'concern'

Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told DailyMail.com that young people using cannabis was a ‘concern’ 

Research firm BDSA projects legal cannabis sales to hit $30 billion this year, and $47.6 billion by 2026, surpassing the craft beer industry and sending windfall tax revenues into the coffers of permissive states.

Experts say legalizing pot has led to it gaining acceptance in recent years, leading more people to try it. Stress from the Covid-19 pandemic has also driven up the number of users.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) annual survey in August found the number of under-30s using marijuana hit record levels last year — which the agency’s boss Dr Nora Volkow called a ‘concern’.

Experts describe a ‘potential explosion’ of underage cannabis use and raised the alarm over the weak oversight of the pot industry.

Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug advisor, noted how early legalizers of cannabis like Washington and Colorado had seen first hand the dangers of super-strength pot and a ‘backlash has begun’ to restrict sales. 

The Weed World Candies truck in New York City, which has legalized recreational cannabis but not yet licensed dispensaries. Critics worry about products that appeal to teens, who could get hold of them via intermediaries

The Weed World Candies truck in New York City, which has legalized recreational cannabis but not yet licensed dispensaries. Critics worry about products that appeal to teens, who could get hold of them via intermediaries

Those seeking to loosen the laws around cannabis had for years protested for pot ¿ including at this rally at the White House in 2016 ¿ before Biden decided to pardon federal offenders

Those seeking to loosen the laws around cannabis had for years protested for pot — including at this rally at the White House in 2016 — before Biden decided to pardon federal offenders 

‘What people know about marijuana is often rooted in pop culture, not science,’ Sabet, president of the campaign group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told DailyMail.com.  

‘The evidence on marijuana is clear: it is not a risk-free drug, and it can have lasting physical and mental effects and these effects are amplified in frequent users and users of high-potency products.’

The average cannabis joint is 4-5 times stronger than it was 50 years ago, with 20-25 percent THC potency, said Sabet. Concentrates and edibles nowadays can be 100 percent potent, he added. 

‘Today’s marijuana has been engineered to be more addicting and is now being pushed by addiction-for-profit companies like Altria and Imperial Tobacco,’ added Sabet. 

‘States that legalize marijuana see increases in youth use, more deaths from marijuana-impaired drivers, increased rates of violent crime, and more incidents of accidental ingestion by children.’

The $30billion cannabis industry argues that taking the drug — either smoking it, vaping it or as an edible — can help relieve feelings of anxiety or depression, chronic pain, and even help fight addictions.

Teenagers are lured by colorfully-packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependency, psychosis and school dropouts, researchers warn. Pictured: child-friendly cannabis gummy packaging

Teenagers are lured by colorfully-packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependency, psychosis and school dropouts, researchers warn. Pictured: child-friendly cannabis gummy packaging

The U.S. Cannabis Council, a major lobbying group, said legalization was widely supported, that pot was safe and could help addicts beat opioid and alcohol dependency. 

But in states where pot has been legalized, many parents say their children have been sucked into an addiction spiral.

They also raised concerns over a free-for-all market in which super-strength cannabis products are sold in cartoon-covered packaging.

Mary Maas, 57, from Washington, which legalized weed in 2012, told DailyMail.com how her son Adam, 26, spiraled into a devastating addiction to super-strength pot products worlds apart from the ‘Woodstock weed’ she recalls from the 1960s.

Now, she looks at the potent oils, vapes, dabs, drinks and gummies sold at a growing number of dispensaries, as well as the down-and-outs living in tents under Seattle’s I-5 highway, and urges other states to heed Washington’s lessons.

‘They’d better watch out,’ she said.

Adam Maas, 26, with his family in Washington. Mom Mary, 57, describes her 'straight-A student' getting hooked on super-<a href=strength cannabis products and ending up delusional, jobless and sleeping rough in Seattle” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Adam Maas, 26, with his family in Washington. Mom Mary, 57, describes her ‘straight-A student’ getting hooked on super-strength cannabis products and ending up delusional, jobless and sleeping rough in Seattle 

America’s $30 billion legalized cannabis industry is causing an ‘explosion’ of teen users

Teenagers in states that have legalized cannabis use more of it and are lured by colorfully-packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependency, psychosis and school dropouts, researchers warn.

A DailyMail.com analysis of research focusing on California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and other states that have legalized recreational pot shows experts warning of a ‘potential explosion’ of under-aged use — and more youngsters using it than in states where it’s illegal.

Renee Goodwin, a psychiatric and substance use epidemiologist who leads Columbia University¿s research, says teen cannabis use grows faster after legalization

Renee Goodwin, a psychiatric and substance use epidemiologist who leads Columbia University’s research, says teen cannabis use grows faster after legalization  

They are alarmed by the weak oversight of a $30 billion business and warn of a free-for-all market in which super-strength cannabis products are sold in cartoon-covered packaging that attracts youngsters, even as tobacco and alcohol firms are barred from targeting youths.

Data from the 19 states that have permitted recreational pot this past decade, as well as the 38 states that allow medical use, indicates that teens and young adults there are using stronger products more often.

Not every teen who eats a pot gummy sees their life unravel. But they are more prone to addiction and dependency than adults, and greater availability and use means more cases of anxiety, depression, psychosis and even suicide.

In November, voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota will decide on whether to liberalize their own cannabis laws — and let windfall pot industry taxes flow into state coffers.

‘Cannabis use is more common among youth and adults in states where cannabis use is legal for recreational use,’ Renee Goodwin, who leads Columbia University’s research, told DailyMail.com.

‘Legalization has moved from a social justice issue, to the other extreme of big business commercialization without any of the same restrictions that tobacco and alcohol now need to follow.’

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