Case in point: a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey asked respondents which of four substances they thought was the most harmful, and the vast majority placed marijuana dead last, behind tobacco, alcohol — and perhaps most surprisingly — sugar.
Here is the graph in detail:
Image Credit: Wall Street Journal
Nearly half the respondents believed that tobacco was the most dangerous substance out of the four, while twice as many thought that sugar was more harmful than marijuana.
The science to back it up: Not only does this illustrate the changing public opinion regarding pot, but there's some scientific merit here as well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five deaths in America is related by tobacco cigarettes, with more than 16 million Americans suffering from a diseases caused by smoking. Alcohol consumption also happens to be the third-highest lifestyle cause of death in the U.S.
Sugar is an especially dangerous substance, especially when you consider that fact that, unlike tobacco and alcohol, a lot of people consumer sugar (and lots of it) without even realizing. The average American gets around 15% of their daily calories from added sugars, and that's even a low-ball figure when you consider that something like one can of soda already has 7% of the recommended caloric intake.
Added sugars are tied to a host of medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. According to a recent study, "People who consumed between 17% to 21% of daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of death from heart disease than people who consumed less than 10% of calories from added sugars."
But what about pot? When you compare it to these deadly chemicals, marijuana is relatively safe. But, because it's still a strictly controlled substance, scientists and researchers have had a hard time investigating and learning more about the drug's potential dangers. Some studies suggest that cannabis smoke contains carcinogens, or that recreational marijuana use increases the risk of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders and leads around 10% of regular users to addiction. And even some staunch supporters of legalization are concerned about the impact of marijuana on young, developing brains.
However, despite the unknown variables, from what we have figured out so far, marijuana is practically a Nerf ball compared to tobacco, alcohol and added sugars. Plus, when you consider all the great, scientifically proven benefits of medical marijuana, it's more like some kind of magical life-saving Nerf ball. Recreational marijuana is still illegal in most states, but science — and public opinion — is on its side.