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Half of Americans and Canadians Think You Can Die from a Cannabis Overdose

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When Reefer Madness’ hit cinemas in 1936, the film was preceded with a dire warning, calling cannabis a violent narcotic — an unspeakable scourge — The Real Public Enemy Number One.” Of course, years of research have shown that no one has ever died of a cannabis overdose. Ever. But the question remains: How many people actually know that? And how many people still hold the Reefer Madness line?

To find out, Civilized teamed up with PSB Research and Burson Cohn Wolf to survey 1,000 American and over 600 Canadian adults for the 2019 Cannabis Culture Poll, which included asking respondents to guess how many people die from cannabis overdoses every year.

First, the good news: Half of the people we spoke are in agreement with all recorded history that no one has ever died of a cannabis overdose. Specifically, 53 percent of Americans and 50 percent of Canadians think that the death toll for cannabis is a big fat zero. 

If we break it down further, we can see that the majority of consumers know what’s up: 75 percent of Canadian cannabis consumers said zero, versus 45 percent of Canada’s non-consumers. Meanwhile, 65 percent of American consumers recognized that cannabis doesn’t kill, versus 43 percent of non-consumers.

Clearly, having a little bit of experience with cannabis goes a long way.

But what about the other half of poll respondents — the ones who think that cannabis has a body count? 

Well, 6 percent of Americans estimated that 100 people die from weed overdoses every year — that includes 6 percent of all non-consumers in the States and (bizarrely) 5 percent of American consumers.

Moving up the death toll, 10 percent of American non-consumers — but only 1 percent of consumers — said 1000 people died each year. Up north, 10 percent of Canadian non-consumers and — believe it or not — 5 percent of consumers thought the same thing. Even worse, 1 percent of American consumers and 3 percent of non-consumers — think that a whopping 100,000 people are felled by the demon weed in an average year. And if you think that’s a lot, know that 1 percent of Americans and 2 percent of Canadians said one million people overall died from weed in a year. That’s more than the death toll caused by opioids in America between 1999 and 2015!

So to this bloc of people who think that cannabis kills, we must ask: where are you getting your information?

The Cannabis Culture Poll is an annual study commissioned by Civilized in partnership with PSB Research and Burson Cohn & Wolfe. In March 2019, the poll surveyed 1,602 adults from coast-to-coast in the U.S. and Canada. The research groups, consisting of both cannabis consumers and non-users, were asked a variety of questions about their views about cannabis as well behaviors, habits, and personal experiences.

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