US Insights

Americans view marijuana as a far lesser evil than other drugs and alcohol

Ross Tucker

Executive Editor Kantar US Insights

Policy 05.08.2018 / 12:00


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Marijuana use isn't widespread, but it has a largely positive perception among Americans.

Americans’ growing support for legalizing marijuana is rooted in a belief that it’s safer and less detrimental to society than alcohol and other drugs.

Kantar’s Lightspeed division surveyed 1,051 people over the age of 18 between April 27 and April 30 to get a more detailed view on where Americans stand on making marijuana mainstream. The results showed that while marijuana use isn’t necessarily widespread, Americans have a largely positive perception of the drug and fewer fears over any potentially negative impacts it could have on society.

The implications of nationwide legalization will have a profound impact across industries and product categories, from health care to retail. Whether brands are ready to engage in the discussion remains to be seen, but cannabis is already a disruptive force.

"It can be a purely recreational product, a wellness vehicle, or a health solution, and within each application there exist a slew of ancillary products and categories," said Kantar Consulting senior analyst Kate Senzamici in March.

“In the U.S., the size of the legal cannabis industry is expected to drastically increase, reaching anywhere from $24 billion to $44 billion by 2020, depending on advances in legalization. Questioning whether cannabis will impact conventional retail is no longer relevant or useful.” 

Legalize It?

The number of Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana has only grown. Our survey found that 64% of Americans favored nationwide legalization and only 26% were against it. Men were slightly more supportive, with 69% in favor compared with 62% of women. Roughly half of Americans said they’d tried using marijuana.



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Weed is Better Than…?

The biggest thing going for the push to legalize marijuana is a perception that it’s healthier and safer than other drugs. Americans have largely rejected claims that weed can be a “gateway” to other, harsher substances.

According to our survey, 71% of Americans agree or strongly agree that “marijuana isn’t as dangerous as other drugs.” 61% said it was “healthier” than alcohol.

Impact on Society

The toll drug and alcohol use can have on a society is, understandably, a big part of the debate when it comes to marijuana. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in 2010, excessive alcohol use kills about 88,000 people each year and costs $249 billion. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that when you also factor in abuse of illicit drugs, prescription opioids and tobacco, the cost skyrockets to $740 billion annually.



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Despite this, Americans view marijuana as less of a threat, with 53% saying it was less detrimental to society than alcohol and 65% saying it was less detrimental than other drugs.



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“Legalization is largely a bipartisan issue,” notes Senzamici. “Politicians from across party lines have been outspoken in their support of progressive cannabis reform following [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’ Cole Memo decision, and cannabis bills in Washington continue to acquire cosponsors from both parties. Cannabis legalization measures, which will be on the ballot in many states, should fare well based on what we know of public opinion across generations.” 

Source: Kantar, Lightspeed

Editor's Notes

To speak with the author or for inquiries, contact us. Follow @Kantar and sign up for our insight alerts.

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