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This new marijuana survey reveals a shocking finding

You probably had a good idea that when given a choice of making cannabis legal or illegal, most folks would choose legal. But understanding how marijuana is viewed relative to other legal vices isn’t always as clear. A new survey from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal was meant to clear that up.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey asked 900 American adults across the country the following question:

If you had to choose just one, which of these four substances — alcohol, marijuana, sugar or tobacco — would you say is most harmful?

Mind you, marijuana is a Schedule I, and therefore illegal substance at the federal level, while alcohol and tobacco are regulated industries that can only be consumed by adults. Here were the responses:

  • Tobacco: 41%
  • Alcohol: 24%
  • Sugar: 21%
  • Marijuana: 9%

As you might expect, tobacco led the way. In 1964, we learned from U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry that smoking tobacco was linked to a higher risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It also is responsible for increasing the risk of developing a host of other cancer types and diseases. And as a reminder, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S.

Alcohol at 24% shouldn’t be a surprise, either. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol was responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths a year between 2006 and 2010, with the average life lost being shortened by 30 years.

But the shock du jour is the 21% of Americans who chose sugar — a legal substance for all ages found in every convenience store — as being substantially more harmful than marijuana (21% vs. 9%). The long-term effects of sugar intake are still somewhat debated among researchers, as are the long-term impacts of cannabis use. Thus, to see such a marked difference in how the public views the two is really eye-opening and suggestive of just how much Americans’ views on pot have changed over the years.

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