Ever heard the old adage, “don’t knock it ‘til you try it’? Gallup’s latest polling data seems to support that concept, showing that 70% of American adults—the ones who have actually tried it—think its effects on users are positive.
These results were collected July 5-26 from Gallup’s Consumption survey, conducted annually during the month of July.
A large majority, or 70% of Americans who have ever tried cannabis think pot’s effects on users are “very” or “somewhat positive,” and 66% think pot’s effect on society is “very” or “somewhat positive.”
But on the other hand, a similarly large majority of people who have never tried cannabis think its effects are negative, with 72% saying its effect on society is “very” or “somewhat negative” and 62% saying its effects on users are “very” or “somewhat negative.”
In other words, one might assume that some people dislike cannabis until they try it for themselves, or see the miraculous healing powers of the plant first-hand, with their own two eyes.
“This survey data indicates that personal experience with cannabis is a relatively surefire cure for ‘reefer madness,’” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “As greater percentages of adults continue to become familiar with marijuana for either therapeutic purposes or for their own personal use, expect to see many of the more sensational yet specious claims that once dominated the cannabis narrative be regulated to the dustbin of history.”
While about half of Americans have tried pot at some point—48%—just 16% say they are currently smoking it.
America’s Overall View
Americans are split down the middle over pot’s effect on society with 49% considering it positive and 50% considering it negative. Slightly more support for pot’s effect on users was found, with 53% saying it’s positive and 45% negative.
Armentano is “not particularly” surprised American adults remain divided about their views on cannabis.
“We’ve known for some time that there is a percentage of Americans who believe that marijuana ought to be legalized and regulated,” Armentano tells High Times. “Because criminalizing it is a policy that has not worked, and that comes with very high costs. And I think that is reflected in the fact that Gallup finds a supermajority of Americans think marijuana ought to be legal, yet, America’s fairly evenly divided on whether or not marijuana use per se is beneficial. You have a percentage of the public that may not necessarily like cannabis, but they dislike prohibiting cannabis even more.”
Americans, however, appear to recognize the harms of alcohol and see cannabis far more positively than they do alcohol. An earlier Gallup released last month shows that three in four adults in America believe alcohol negatively affects society, and 71% said they believe it is harmful to drinkers.
When Gallup began surveying Americans about cannabis in 1969—only 4% said they thought it should be legal. Through the decades that number has climbed slowly but steadily to reflect the rapidly changing attitudes in the country. According to Gallup’s most recent survey, 68% of U.S. adults, tied for the record high, think pot should be legal.
Witnessing the Benefits of Cannabis
The second-best thing to first-hand experience is the power of social media and how it’s showing the world that cannabis has fewer harms than alcohol and most of all, that it can help heal.
These types of videos might help convert opponents of cannabis reform or the undecided.
An example of this would be viral videos on social media showing the healing powers of THC or CBD. Facebook user Pete Starostecki was a cross-state cannabis refugee, and posted a viral video of CBD oil stopping seizures in real time with his son. Professional British Boxer Anthony Fowler, for instance, posted a video of a dog having a seizure and how fast CBD oil stopped the dog from shaking.
The further influence of cannabis in the media helps to normalize hard-working, functional Americans who choose to consume cannabis responsibly, as evident in the rising numbers in successive Gallup polls.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.