i would say the average american is very much brainwashed on the subject, both users and non. many users abuse it, and most people see it as partying and contraband. i have told my children straight up that the most dangerous thing about mj is that it is illegal. this not only makes a user subject to our increasingly draconian laws, but it is unregulated and as to quality and likely to be even more poisoned than our food supply, if that were possible.
what i have found is that most people use illegal drugs in the same manner as legal ones - they are treating symptoms. the weed is ubiquitous among meth and crack users. it is the soft pillow upon which they are able to lay their weary heads. but like all drugs(especially legal rX and otc) used in this manner, it simply enables the user to continue to do whatever it is that is causing the symptoms to begin with.
i have three teenagers and none of them use drugs. they dont even seem to be interested. but then i am lucky that they are healthy and happy. when you lose your health, be it physical or emotional, that is when relief is sought.