Americans' attitudes towards marijuana - and other drugs - are changing, with admitted drug users and non-drug users sharing many of the same attitudes, according to new research from Florida rehabilitation clinic The Florida House Experience.
The rehabilitation clinic polled 1,100 Americans, split equally between those who admit to being drug users and those who are not.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions once said "good people don't smoke marijuana," as the Washington Post reported in 2016. Putting aside morality (for now - more in a couple of paragraphs), however, it seems that marijuana is generally regarded as safe, by both drug users and non-drug users alike.
Specifically, among admitted drug users, 75.89 percent of men and 81.21 percent of women believe that marijuana is the "safest" of all drugs, legal or illegal. Among non-drug users, 58.59 percent of men and 55.81 percent of women also believe that pot is the safest of all drugs.
Of course, a couple of points bear noting regarding the "safety" of pot. For one thing, peer-reviewed, academic research on marijuana is woefully short thanks to cannabis' status as a Schedule 1 narcotic according to the federal government, which basically means it's considered to have "no medicinal value," like heroin or meth. That means that most of what we know about pot's safety is anecdotal and based on consensus, rather than actual science. Second, while the psychoactive components in marijuana may be thought of as safe, that doesn't take into account the plant itself - and any molds, fungi, pesticides, or whatever other nastiness may have gotten onto it during the farming, harvesting, and curing processes.
Oh, About Morality...
Back in the Reagan era ("Just Say No," and all that), drug use and drug addiction were presented as moral issues - an attitude still held by the top official in the Justice Department.
Regular Americans, however, appear not to see things that way. Asked whether or not being a drug addict is a sign of "low morals," 86.35 percent of drug users answered "no" and 13.65 percent answered "yes." Non-drug users, perhaps surprisingly, answered similarly with 77.71 percent answering "no," while 22.39 percent said "yes."
Although, the age-old question of whether or not addiction is a choice drew a slightly more stark difference in opinions; drug users said "no" 69.5 percent of the time, while non-users said "no" 57.25 percent of the time.
For what it's worth, Dr. Nora Volkow, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is clear that addiction is a disease, not a choice as "psychiatry recognizes addiction as a disease of the brain."
However, being addicted and getting addicted are two different things. While everyone has the choice to take or not take a particular drug on the first try (excluding situations of force or duress, of course), on subsequent uses, the user's ability to make rational choices gets diminished.
As the pot-smoking world celebrates 4/20 by lighting up, advocating for legalization, or just doing as most Americans do on a Friday (that is, go to work), do keep in mind that it's a different world from the one most adults reading this article grew up in. Gone are the days of trying to scare users away from drugs by appealing to a sense of morals - the picture is far fuzzier than a simple matter of right vs. wrong. And when it comes to pot, while the jury is still out on its safety, users and non-users alike agree that it sure as heck beats alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs.