Survey Finds People Consider Marijuana Less Harmful Than Sugar

A new study indicates that younger people are consuming marijuana in healthier ways and are more likely to stay in control of themselves while using; they also see marijuana as less harmful than sugar. The Cannabis Culture Report, produced by DIGG, a market research firm, surveyed 1,105 Americans and 1,108 Canadians for their responses on several cannabis-related issues.

"We were excited about the opportunity that legalization poses both for users, in terms of getting access to high-quality product, and then also understanding how, perhaps, legalization will impact consumption of marijuana," DIGG research director Rory McGee says. This is the firm's first report, he adds, but it plans to continue to research the topic and put out a new report every six months.

Among other things, the report found that people consider marijuana less harmful than sugar. Only 16 percent of Americans believe marijuana is "very harmful," while processed sugar came in at 23 percent, alcohol at 27 percent, and saturated fat at 33 percent. Marijuana also ranks lower than every other Schedule I substance.

"You take marijuana, and that 16 percent of Americans who think it's very harmful to its users pales in comparison to heroin, which 94 percent of people think is very harmful to its users, and cocaine, [which] 97 percent think is very harmful," McGee says.

In states where marijuana is not yet legal, 37 percent say they'll be likely to consume more once it is.

People who use marijuana frequently report benefits from their consumption. "Daily users of marijuana actually perceive cognitive benefits," McGee says. "We asked people what they feel more or less of after consuming marijuana, and these daily users reported feeling more energized, more focused after consuming it, as opposed to moderate users who were more likely to feel funnier or lazy after consuming marijuana."

More than half of the survey respondents believe marijuana can be beneficial, whether they consume or not.

"There are benefits many people perceive are from marijuana," McGee says. "Not necessarily medically. We asked people if they feel benefits after consuming marijuana, and over half — 51 percent of Americans — actually believe marijuana can be beneficial. But 32 percent, so a third of Americans, still believe regular users are less successful in life."

The study also took on some less weighty topics. Snacks, for example. Seven out of ten people who like to eat chips report preferring Doritos over Lay's potato chips, and 49 percent prefer Taco Bell over McDonald's.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.