More Americans name sugar over marijuana as the most damaging substance

Among our common chemical vices very few Americans see marijuana as the most dangerous according to a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll.

When asked to say what substance they thought was most harmful to a person’s health 49 percent chose tobacco, 24 percent picked alcohol, and 15 percent selected sugar. Marijuana came in last place with just 8 percent thinking it is the most damaging.

With marijuana viewed as less harmful than several legal product the question naturally becomes why are we wasting million arresting adults for using what is a relatively benign plant. This logical disconnect is helping to drive the legalization movement.

The poll was not all good news for marijuana reform. When asked how voters would respond to a candidate coming out in support of marijuana legalization 31 percent said it would make them more inclined to vote for them while 41 percent said it would make them less likely to support them. An additional 27 percent said it would make no difference.

Given that almost all the swing voters are probably in that 27 percent this is a relatively small disadvantage, but some politicians will see this number and conclude there is little to gain by actively endorsing legalization. Until there is more proof it can drive youth turnout, it becomes a real issue in more Democratic primaries, and/or legalization reaches overwhelmingly levels of popular support many politicians are probably going to be slow to evolve on the issue.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy