In a new survey data published in the journal Addictive Behavior, researchers found that most Americans view cannabis as less harmful than alcohol. As new medical research trickles in on the therapeutic power of cannabis, an increasing number of Americans (and people around the world) are viewing cannabis in a less negative light than before.
Changing Perceptions in the U.S.
In an effort to gauge the public sentiment on cannabis and cannabis derivatives, a pair of researchers from the University of Delaware and Michigan State University surveyed a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 18 to 75+ on their views on cannabis and CBD.
“A majority of the public perceives THC and marijuana as grouped together with prescription medications rather than with illicit substances and as having more medical value and less abuse potential than alcohol,” the researchers found.
Currently, federal law classifies the cannabis plant as a Schedule I controlled substance, a classification reserved for drugs with the highest potential for abuse and no currently accepted use in treatment. However, alcohol is not a scheduled substance. In addition, cocaine and methamphetamine are classified as Schedule II substances, right under cannabis.
In light of the results, the researchers agreed that the results “provide evidence that US consumers would not classify any of the cannabis derivatives as Schedule I substances.” Advocate groups argue that it’s high time that the federal government stop playing games and engage in an intellectually honest discussion about cannabis reform.
Discovering Cannabis’ Therapeutic Potential
In the survey, of those who acknowledged using cannabis and CBD, just under half of the respondents used cannabis “as a replacement for other medications.” Medications include anti-anxiety medications and opioids.
The survey results are consistent with other studies that indicate that about 30% of users who use cannabis are using it to replace opioids. In addition, 76.7% of those patients stated that they have reduced their consumption of opioids. Furthermore, states that have allowed medical cannabis use have reduced their opioid-related hospitalizations by 23% on average.
More than half of the respondents saw CBD, THC, hemp, and cannabis as having medical use. They also saw the potential for abuse of CBD, THC, hemp, and cannabis as significantly less than the potential for abuse of commonly prescribed anti-anxiety and pain medications.
Slightly more than 20% of survey respondents declared having used CBD and/or THC. Based on the responses, CBD was the favorite over THC to relieve pain. However, THC was used more for recreational purposes than CBD.
Distinguishing Between Cannabinoids and Cannabis
Surprisingly, respondents considered hemp as less medically valuable than CBD, which is usually derived from hemp. In addition, THC was perceived as having less potential medical use than cannabis. This discrepancy shows a lack of understanding on the consumers’ part of where cannabinoids come from and their relationship to cannabis and hemp.
A Call for More Research
Unfortunately, consumers and lawmakers have very little research to go on when crafting cannabis policy.
Cannabis’ status as a federally controlled substance severely limits the speed, quality, and amount of research performed to determine its medical potential and health risks. Additional research is needed to improve health recommendations and the long-term effects of cannabis use.
Ending Federal Prohibition
The survey’s findings clearly indicate an upward trend in positive perceptions toward cannabis, hemp, and their cannabinoids. In response to the reports, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano compared the government’s stance on cannabis prohibition to that of a “flat Earth position.”
“It is time for Congress to jettison this intellectually dishonest position as well and remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act in a manner similar to alcohol–thereby ending the existing state/federal conflict and permitting state governments, not the federal government, to be the primary arbiters of cannabis policy,” Armentano said in a statement.
In addition, these medicinal plants are becoming a popular alternative to prescription opioids, which have a greater risk of dependence, side effects, and abuse. It’s up to federal agencies to shift their view on cannabis to reflect the changing views on cannabis.