In Oregon, more adults believe marijuana safer than alcohol

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N. C. — Pass the weed: a recent study conducted in Oregon, where recreational marijuana is legal, finds that most people think smoking pot is safer than drinking alcohol.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers at RTI International, a North Carolina-based non-profit, surveyed more than 1,900 adults in the months leading to the drug’s decriminalization in the Beaver State.

Person rolling a marijuana joint
(Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

The survey’s biggest finding was that a slight majority of respondents (52.5 percent) believed alcohol use poses a greater risk to society than marijuana, while only 7.5 percent believed that marijuana was more dangerous to the end consumer.

Viewpoints on the harmfulness of marijuana relative to alcohol varied across party lines, as shown by nearly six-tenths of Democrats and Independents believing the former to be safer than the latter.

Republicans, on the other hand, were only about half as likely to agree with such a sentiment (30.7 percent).

“This study is the first to measure perceptions of the relative harmfulness of marijuana and alcohol,” explains Jane Allen, the study’s lead author, in a news release. “The findings surprised me somewhat, because there is widespread acceptance of alcohol for adult recreational use, and in contrast, marijuana is classified at the federal level as a Schedule I drug. There seems to be a disconnect between the social and legal status of the substances and people’s perceptions of harmfulness.”

Previous research has suggested that by legalizing recreational marijuana, policymakers may be able to cut into the sales — and accompanying use — of other drugs, both legal and illegal.

Legal weed, for instance, could cut into the margins of pharmaceutical companies that produce strong opioids. Alcohol, however, may be an entirely different story. While marijuana completely replaces liquor for some, for others, it simply complements their favorite adult beverage.

Therefore, it’s hard to say exactly how having more legal alternatives to alcohol, such as marijuana, could impact what we deem our drug of choice.

Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states, while medical marijuana is legal in 20.

Allen et al. published their findings in the journal Preventive Medicine.


  1. Anyone who compares the hazards of drinking alcohol to cannabis and is unable to determine that drinking alcohol is significantly more dangerous than cannabis is in desperate need of a check up from the neck up. It isn’t even close.

    1. With the ever-increasing evidence of the dangers of cannabis use, it is counterproductive to enter into the back and forth of which is more dangerous. It is foolish to put either chemical into your body – even the “less dangerous” one. “Less dangerous” is not “good”.

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