Most Americans believe marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco

Jamie BallardData Journalist
April 19, 2024, 1:25 AM GMT+0

Many Americans will be celebrating 4/20 this weekend by using marijuana. Ahead of the unofficial holiday devoted to cannabis, YouGov asked Americans about their own experiences with marijuana and whether they believe it should be made legal nationwide. Majorities have used marijuana, think it is safe, believe it is less harmful than tobacco or alcohol, want to see it legalized, and think legalization would be good for the economy.

Most Americans (56%) have tried marijuana at some point in their lives, including 24% who say they’ve used it in the past year; 17% have used it in the past month. (Another 4% say they have never used marijuana but have used CBD.)

Of the one in four adults who say they have used marijuana in the last year, many are daily users: 24% say they use it several times a day and 11% use it once a day. 20% use it a few times a week and 14% use it a few times per month.

What formats of cannabis consumption are most common? The most popular method, among the 60% of Americans who have ever tried marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD, an active ingredient in marijuana), is smoking flower or bud: 61% of this group — and 37% of Americans overall — say they’ve ingested it this way. 51% of people who have ever used marijuana have tried edible foods such as baked goods or candy infused with marijuana and 30% have used it in the form of a concentrate or extract for vaping or dabbing.

Relatively few Americans have tried marijuana-infused bath products (5%) or facial beauty products (5%).

Among people who use marijuana at least a few times a week, majorities have consumed it as flower or bud for smoking (88%), edible foods (85%), and concentrates/extracts for vaping or dabbing (67%).

Many Americans have also encountered products that contain CBD, which is also known as cannabidiol, an active ingredient in marijuana as well as hemp. It doesn’t cause a person to feel intoxicated — or high — but limited research suggests that it can help ease symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and addiction. 37% of Americans say they’ve tried products containing CBD. Like CBD, Delta 8 and Delta 9 are also cannabinoids. Unlike CBD, Delta 8 and Delta 9 are both tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), which means they do have intoxicating effects. Delta 9 is the most common, but Delta 8 has a slightly different chemical structure and may have slightly different effects. Fewer Americans (13%) have tried products containing Delta 8 or Delta 9.

People who use marijuana at least a few times a week are significantly more likely to have tried both CBD products (83%) and Delta 8 or Delta 9 products (52%).

Three-quarters (73%) of people who have ever used marijuana say their experiences have been positive, including 40% who say it has been “very positive.” Among Americans overall, 76% believe that marijuana can be useful in treating certain health conditions; that figure is 90% among those who have ever tried marijuana.

58% of Americans overall and 80% of those who have tried marijuana believe that it is very or somewhat safe to use it. Among those who haven’t, 31% believe it is safe.

Most Americans (53%) don’t believe that using marijuana leads to the use of hard drugs; 27% think it does. Among those who have never tried marijuana, 29% don’t believe that it leads to the use of hard drugs while 43% think it does.

64% of Americans think that regular alcohol use is more harmful to a person’s health than regular marijuana use. A similar number (63%) think regular tobacco use is more harmful than regular marijuana use. 53% say that both alcohol and tobacco are more harmful.

Most Americans have tried marijuana — and of that group, majorities have found it to be a positive experience, a safe one, and one with perceived health benefits. And many Americans would like it to be legalized nationwide.

62% of Americans think the use of marijuana should be made legal in the U.S.; Democrats (71%) and Independents (67%) are more likely than Republicans (46%) to say it should be legalized.

If marijuana were legalized in the U.S., most Americans who have never tried it would continue to stay away. 67% of adults who have never tried marijuana say they definitely would not try it even if it were made legal. 14% say they probably would not try it. Fewer say they probably would (6%) or definitely would (2%) try it.

If marijuana were to be legalized nationwide, 52% of Americans think it would be good for the economy. 64% of Democrats, 52% of Independents, and 40% of Republicans hold this view.

In addition to support for legalizing marijuana nationwide, there is also widespread support for expunging marijuana-related convictions for non-violent offenders. 58% of Americans would support this, including 67% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans.

— Taylor Orth and Carl Bialik contributed to this article


See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: The YouGov poll was conducted online on April 5 - 8, 2024 among 1,148 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Getty (Heath Korvola)

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