Cannabis policy around the world is currently changing and evolving, often in more liberal directions. This has led policymakers to dive deeper into the data and statistics surrounding not just the plant itself, but also other substances considered to either compliment or be a substitute for it.
Alcohol is widely available in countries across the world where Islam is not the prevailing religion, and is often legal for non-muslims in countries where it is prohibited. Along with cannabis, alcohol is one of the most widely used substances in the world. Results of a 2019 US survey indicated that 86% of people have used alcohol at least once in their life, with 70% having used it in the past year.
However, alcohol use comes at a risk to health. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report from 2018 says that alcohol causes 3,000,000 premature deaths annually, with poorer and more disadvantaged communities bearing the brunt of the pain caused by alcohol misuse.
Alcohol use far outstrips cannabis use, with the difference getting greater as respondents get older. The reason for this may be the result of many different social, economic and geographic issues, a significant difference being that use, possession and the sale of cannabis is illegal in most countries around the world. In fact, only Uruguay, Canada and Malta currently have a legal, adult-use, recreational cannabis market.
To assess the public’s opinion on this subject, a YouGov survey conducted in the USA asked the question, “Would it be good or bad if the average American drank less alcohol but used more marijuana?”
The results show that more respondents considered it to be good if the average American adult drank less alcohol and used more cannabis, with 27% in favour and 20% against. 38% of respondents stated that they felt it would be neither good nor bad. The age group 30-44 were most likely to answer the question favourably. Two age groups were the most likely to disagree, 18-29 and 65 and over.
Public opinion should always be a driving factor for politicians and policymakers when making their decisions, but financial wins are often considered to be more important. In the USA there is evidence that shows the public doesn’t just have a favourable opinion of cannabis, they are also showing support for it with their dollars. Since the first state, Colorado, legalised the first adult-use cannabis market in 2014, all legal states combined have collected roughly $10 billion in tax revenue, with both Massachusetts and Illinois collecting more tax money from cannabis sales than alcohol sales.