Attitudes in the United States are undergoing a monumental shift right now, especially among younger generations, as more Americans say marijuana isn’t so bad. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reflects this perspective, finding that Americans under the age of 35 find sugar and other substances to be more harmful to health than weed.
The poll surveyed 1,000 adults about various issues, including President Obama’s approval and same-sex marriage. It also asked respondents which substances they deemed most harmful to a person’s overall health, giving them the choices: alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and sugar. Forty-nine percent said tobacco was most harmful, while 24 percent said alcohol, 15 percent said sugar, and eight percent said marijuana. Although sugar may be the odd one out of the four — it’s not really a drug, per se — the results highlight a shift in the public’s view of what’s really harming public health. “Clearly people are not concerned about marijuana as a health risk as they are about cigarettes, booze, and chocolate bars,” Patrick O’Connor, a reporter at the The Wall Street Journal said.
The poll also found that 57 percent of adults under 35 were focused on the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, and had “seen, read, or heard a lot” about it. That was more than the 44 percent who said the same for the Affordable Care Act, 39 percent who’d heard about the conflict regarding Ukraine and Russia, and 34 percent who’d been paying attention to same-sex marriage laws. Indeed, attitudes are changing.
Although there is still a lot of controversy regarding the legalization and medical use of marijuana, many constituents are beginning to believe there is no harm in the plant. In a recent interview with The New Yorker magazine, President Obama said, “As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” And despite claims to the contrary, marijuana hasn’t been directly linked to death.
Sugar consumption, however, has been linked to many health problems, with the most apparent of them being obesity. It’s added in so many things we consume, both food (cookies and pastries) to beverages (soda and juice), and comes in many different names, including anhydrous dextrose, maltose, and high-fructose corn syrup. As overconsumption leads to obesity, people put themselves at risk of weight-related health problems, including heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women, as well as diabetes and certain types of cancers.
Over-consuming anything is bad, but there has never been an overdose from smoking too much weed — though smoking too much can lead to anxiety attacks and psychotic reactions and, obviously, children should not be eating marijuana treats. In fact, studies have shown that the plant, when consumed medicinally, can help patients control diseases developed through overconsumption of sugar. A study from last May found that marijuana use among diabetics lowered fasting insulin and the risk of insulin resistance.
Marijuana use, whether it’s medicinal or recreational, may still have its ups and downs, but as obesity rates continue to remain high, the public may be realizing there are more pressing issues to deal with.