As someone whose occupation is indirectly related to marketing, I am continually amazed by how easy it is to convince people of something simply by repeating a message over and over again. Such is the case with marijuana, as evidenced by the results of the most recent Gallup poll measuring public perception. The poll demonstrates a tremendous amount of ignorance among American consumers.
In a nutshell, the poll’s key take away is the belief among consumers that marijuana is safer than both tobacco and alcohol. Bear in mind that the poll does not cite any scientific evidence in support of such perceptions. It simply reports on what consumers believe about marijuana.
Safer Than Tobacco
Tobacco’s dangers are well known. They have been well known for decades. Smoking tobacco can contribute to all sorts of diseases and health conditions ranging from cancer to emphysema to high blood pressure. We have done such a good job of educating people about smoking that numbers have dropped dramatically over the years.
Ironically, smoking is the most common way to use marijuana. Even in states like Utah, where Salt Lake City’s Beehive Farmacy says that smoking is prohibited, people still do it. No doubt medical cannabis patients purchase raw flower from Utah pharmacies and take it home to smoke it.
In recreational states like California, Oregon, and New York, smoking marijuana is commonplace. But why? And how can people be so foolish as to believe that inhaling marijuana smoke is any safer than inhaling tobacco smoke? How can they believe that smoking marijuana is safer than vaping nicotine? It makes no sense.
Safer Than Alcohol
As for marijuana being safer than alcohol, nothing could be more relative in terms of comparing pot with other substances. The average American has little knowledge about how alcohol impacts the body. Moreover, most American adults drink. So what leads them to believe that using marijuana is safer?
The answer to this one is not as clear. However, it could be the fact that we have spent decades talking about the dangers of drunk driving. Organizations like MADD have done a fantastic job of highlighting what can happen when a drunk gets behind the wheel. No such campaign has been undertaken for marijuana. But that does not mean that driving under the influence of pot is any safer.
As far as the long-term physical effects of both marijuana and alcohol are concerned, we do not have enough information on the former. The limited information we do have on alcohol is sketchy, at best. We cannot say for certain that moderate drinking is detrimental to human health in the long run. We have even less confidence in long-term marijuana use.
It’s All about Messaging
The main takeaway here is that pro-marijuana advocates have mastered their messaging. When it comes to convincing people that something is true, messaging is key. That is where victories are won and sustained.
The better part of 20 years, the pro-marijuana movement has done everything within its power to present cannabis as completely harmless. They have managed to convince American consumers that they can use pot freely and without consequence. As a result, the majority of Americans now believe marijuana is safer than both alcohol and tobacco.
It is both sad and disappointing that we have reached this point. As a former tobacco user and drinker, I can attest to the harms of both. I am also smart enough to not take any chances with marijuana. Any substance that has the ability to alter the mind should be approached with caution. Likewise for any substance consumed by way of smoking.