Nearly two in three Americans agree: Stoners aren’t bad people


Good news, stoners!

Nearly two out of three Americans agree: You’re not a bad person!

That, at any rate, is the conclusion of an intriguing Gallup survey released earlier this week. The survey, which was conducted May 1-10, asked a random sample of 1,024 adults aged 18 or older to indicate whether they believe each of 21 different behaviors and practices are “morally acceptable” or “morally wrong.”

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they thought “smoking marijuana” was morally acceptable. Thirty-one percent thought it was morally wrong.

Smoking pot was tied with “having a baby outside of marriage” as the eighth most morally acceptable behavior on the list. However, slightly more people found having a baby out of wedlock more morally wrong than smoking pot (32 percent vs. 31 percent).

Those surveyed also found smoking marijuana more morally acceptable than such perennial culture war wedge issues as “the death penalty” (62 percent), “doctor-assisted suicide” (54 percent), “abortion” (43 percent) and “pornography” (43 percent).

Marijuana users shouldn’t start feeling too holy about their new moral acceptability, however. “Drinking alcohol” was deemed morally acceptable by 78 percent of those surveyed. Only 19 percent called drinking booze morally wrong.

Drinking alcohol was in second place in the morally acceptable rankings — despite the fact that by almost every accepted metric it is a more dangerous behavior for both individuals and society than marijuana smoking.

The behavior found most morally acceptable by those polled was “birth control,” which 91 percent of those surveyed found morally acceptable. Only 6 percent found it morally wrong.

The behavior found least morally acceptable by the survey was “married men and women having an affair.” Only 10 percent found it morally acceptable, compared with 88 percent who found it morally wrong.

Other behaviors that were found more morally acceptable than smoking pot included “divorce” (78 percent acceptable vs. 20 percent wrong), “sex between an unmarried man and woman” and “gambling” (both acceptable over wrong by a 69 percent to 28 percent margin), “gay or lesbian relations” (acceptable over wrong 67 percent to 30 percent), and “medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos” (acceptable over wrong 66 percent to 29 percent).

Besides adultery, other behaviors that were found morally wrong by overwhelming margins included “suicide” (20 percent vs. 75 percent), “polygamy, when a married person has more than one spouse at the same time” (19 percent vs. 78 percent), and “cloning humans” (16 percent vs. 81 percent).

In reporting the survey results, Gallup pointed out that the percentage of Americans who found smoking marijuana morally acceptable (65 percent) was almost identical with the number who favored legalizing marijuana in a Gallup survey taken last fall (64 percent).

Close matches on moral acceptability and legal acceptability were not found on some of the other behaviors, most notably abortion. While 48 percent found abortion morally wrong, a Gallup survey taken a year ago found 69 percent in favor of legal abortion in all or some circumstances.

Gallup’s analysis of the data on the pot vs. booze questions found that “majorities of key subgroups of Americans regard both drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana as morally acceptable, but highly religious Americans, as measured by the frequency with which they attend church, are less likely to do so. Whereas 88 percent of those who seldom or never attend religious services find drinking alcohol to be morally acceptable, 60 percent of those who attend weekly hold that view. And while three-quarters of non-attenders say smoking marijuana is OK, less than half of regular churchgoers, 41 percent, agree.”

The bottom line, the analysis said, was that “most Americans do not object on moral grounds to people drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. Of the two, they are more likely to see drinking alcohol as an acceptable behavior, perhaps because it is legal in all states while smoking marijuana is not.”

It added that “with roughly two-thirds of the public saying marijuana use is morally acceptable, it seems there will not be sufficient opposition to thwart attempts to make it legal.”

The survey did include one striking omission; it did not include a question about the moral acceptability of smoking tobacco, which would have provided a fascinating comparison with the marijuana question.

A Gallup survey taken last summer found that 58 percent of those surveyed favored banning tobacco smoking in public, but only 19 percent would make it entirely illegal. However that survey didn’t speak to the moral acceptability of sot weed vs. weed. Maybe next year.