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Most Americans view cannabis as less harmful than alcohol



The debate around the legalisation of cannabis was a hot topic in the recent election

The majority of Americans perceive cannabis as less dangerous than alcohol, a new survey finds.

Most people in the US view cannabis as having medical purposes and believe it to have less potential for abuse than alcohol and prescription drugs.

Researchers from the University of Delaware and with Michigan State University, asked a nationally representative sample of Americans, aged 18 to over 75, about their views on cannabis and CBD.

The researchers stated: “The results show that the majority of US consumers perceive cannabis (as CBD, hemp, marijuana, and THC) as having medical uses and view the potential for abuse of cannabis as less than for commonly prescribed medications and alcohol.”

They went on to say that the findings make it clear that those in the US “would not classify any of the cannabis derivatives as Schedule I substances” and perceive them as having “no greater potential for abuse than cocaine and methamphetamine (Schedule II)”. 

Among those who said they had personally used either cannabis and CBD, just under half said that they did so “as a replacement for other medications.” 

Most frequently, respondents said that they replaced anti-anxiety medications and opioids with cannabinoids – a finding that is consistent with prior studies.

This is the first study to identify perceptions of cannabis for medical use and its potential for abuse, among US consumers. 

It comes as five states voted to legalise medical and/or recreational cannabis in the US election in November, among calls for federal legalisation.

Under federal law, the cannabis plant is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance with “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted use in treatment in the United States.”

Alcohol is not scheduled within the US Controlled Substances Act. 

Paul Armentano, deputy director of US cannabis reform group, NORML, said that he was not surprised by the survey’s findings. 

“The overwhelming majority of Americans have long abandoned the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position that marijuana is a highly dangerous substance without any therapeutic efficacy,” he said on the organisation’s website.

“It is time for Congress to jettison this intellectually dishonest position as well and remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act in a manner similar to alcohol — thereby ending the existing state/federal conflict and permitting state governments, not the federal government, to be the primary arbiters of cannabis policy.”

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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