Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 9 July 2010

+++ New poll shows 70% of people want cannabis legalised +++

A new poll just commissioned by Lib Dems for Drug Policy Reform and conducted by Vision Critical shows that 70% of people are in favour of cannabis being legalised.

It also shows that more people are in favour of legalising Amphetamines (speed), Magic Mushrooms and Mephedrone (the drug recently banned by the government) than are in favour of keeping them prohibited.

For ecstasy there is still a small majority in favour of prohibition (54%) but 39% are in favour of legalisation in some form. Even heroin and cocaine have around a third of people who want to see them legalised.

I think what these findings show is not just that over two thirds of people think that cannabis should be legal, it is that even across drugs there is not a huge consensus in favour of prohibition either. At the very least this can be interpreted as there being scope for a proper debate about the future of drugs policy that includes all options and that such an approach would not be "politically toxic" as too many politicians seem to fear. Hopefully this poll will reassure them that this is not the case.

The poll took a slightly different approach to those I have seen before. It layed out three scenarios, "Light regulation", "Strict government control and regulation" and "Prohibition". It then detailed what each of those categories mean (see details below). It then asked people to say which category they thought a number of currently legal and prohibited drugs should go into.

Light regulation:
-A similar position to the current regulation of tobacco and alcohol sales with drugs available for purchase from shops or licensed premises.
-Age restrictions, marketing restrictions and health warnings similar to those currently in place for alcohol or tobacco.
-Prices are determined by market forces.
-Profits would be gained by the various companies involved in manufacture, distribution and sale.
-Government would levy taxes in a similar way as they do for alcohol and tobacco.

Strict state control and regulation:
-Availability restricted to licensed pharmacists or treatment clinics with age restrictions and a ban on branding and marketing.
-Comprehensive education specifically tailored to each drug to be given on social, economic and health consequences before customers are licensed for use.
-Prices are set by an independent panel of experts tasked with discouraging drug use and minimising the illegal market.
-Manufacturers, distributors and retailers compete for government contracts and profits are directed into drugs treatment and education programs.
-Should dependency be an issue, dependent users are offered affordable prices for medically supervised consumption in clinics with the intention of reducing crime committed by addicts to raise money for the purchase of drugs.

Prohibition:
-Involvement in the drug trade, possession and use of the drug is a criminal offence with the intention of limiting drug availability and deterring use.
-Any persisting demand for the drug is met by illegal dealers working in public or from residential properties.
-Prices are set by illegal dealers taking into account the risks of breaking the law and competition with other suppliers.
-Profits are gained by criminal operations involved in manufacture, distribution and sale.
-Unregulated competition exists between different criminal groups involved in drug supply.

You can see how the poll looked to participants here.

Here are the headline results:


Some of the demographic breakdown information is interesting too. For example, there is no significant difference between the three different age ranges (18-34, 35-54, 55+) across the different drugs and categories people want to see. There is also little difference between supporters of the main parties. This gives the lie to the claim that drug law reform is only favoured by "sandal wearing hippies" in the Lib Dems!

Hopefully this poll can help contribute to the drugs debate and will serve as a way of demonstrating that a sizeable proportion of people in this country are open to the idea that our current legal framework for drug regulation is really not working and fresh thinking is needed.

I view the results of this poll as giving "permission" for politicians to have that full and open debate.



PS: The detailed breakdown of the polling results including demographic information is available here.

The full text of the press release from Ewan Hoyle, the head of LDDPR who commissioned the poll is available here.

10 comments:

Basil Brown said...

Rather depressing to see that 65% of the sample still think outright prohibition is the best way to deal with heroin.

More than with any other drug; the regulated supply of safe heroin to existing addicts would have wide-ranging social benefits, including less street-crime and burglaries. But people are still led towards supporting the same simplistic moral stances that have caused so much misery, illness and death for more than a generation.

Anonymous said...

As part of the light regulation it would be nice to see the government adopt a similar approach to homegrown cannabis as homebrew alcohol, but perhaps with a slight taxation.

I think that people would happily pay for a "home grow" licence of some sort, akin to a tv licence, with, say, a limit on the number of plants and a promise not to sell on.

Not only would this provide an additional income for the state, but proceeds could go towards awareness programs and the health service in general to appease some of the public concerned with those factors.

It's interesting to see California begin to take a new approach to cannabis while exploring the monetisation of the plant itself.

Criminalisation of younger society on the basis that they are doing something which various drug control agencies have said is possibly less damaging than alcohol seems an archaic approach in these modern times and it also has the additional penalty of following these people through their lives.

Anonymous said...

End of prohibition scoring quite high on YourFreedom too:

http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/repealing-unnecessary-laws/repeal-drugs-prohibition

Disco Biscuit said...

Weird how more people think ecstasy should be illegal than think mephedrone should be... meph is a really awful drug that does real harm; E doesn't.

Matty said...

If there's going to be a change in the drug laws then I think it ought to be like this - on a drug-by-drug basis. The laws probably need changing but I think those calling for "an end to prohibition" haven't really sat down and thought about this.

As I usually say in these instances, before any change to legislation I'd like a wide-range of people consulted: drug experts, doctors, drug users, families of drug users, those who live in areas with high levels of illegal drug use, recovered drug addicts, the police, the judiciary. This isn't an "easy" issue with simple black/white morality and all bases should be covered. There's far too many instances of the sheltered middle-classes deciding they know what's best about things of which they know little. Before we even decide what we think, let's look at the issue properly.

And, sadly, judging from many discussions I've had on this subject, it's clear that most people who are firmly decided one way or the other clearly haven't.

Matty said...

@Anon
"I think that people would happily pay for a "home grow" licence of some sort, akin to a tv licence, with, say, a limit on the number of plants and a promise not to sell on.

Not only would this provide an additional income for the state, but proceeds could go towards awareness programs and the health service in general to appease some of the public concerned with those factors."

Some kind of "home grow" license for cannabis is quite a good idea. I'm hugely sceptical of all the talk of "awareness" programs and "education", though, because I think those are largely worthless. We've had decades of education about drugs - from scaremongering exaggeration of the negative effects to rational "plain speaking" honesty - and it doesn't seem to have made much difference. One reasons seems to be that the "problem" drug users/addicts are frequently generally badly educated and of low intelligence so educational programs don't get through to them. They're also easy to exploit by drug dealers who tend to flock to deprived areas. This is one of the reasons I find the idea that "spending money on education" will somehow mitigate the effects of legalisation a bit native.

If some drugs are legalised I'd prefer a system of individual licensing. That is, someone is permitted to use said drugs unless it means they become a public menace in which case they will be (initially) fined and then imprisoned for breaking the terms. They should also do this with alcohol.

Anonymous said...

@Disco Biscuit - you're probably confusing mephedrone with either methadone or methamphetamine (meth)

Jason said...

@Matty-

"If some drugs are legalised I'd prefer a system of individual licensing. That is, someone is permitted to use said drugs unless it means they become a public menace in which case they will be (initially) fined and then imprisoned for breaking the terms. They should also do this with alcohol."

Interesting concept. I'm not sure I agree with the idea, but it really has given me food for thought. A consumption licence certainly would have benefits. As you point out, the concept would focus on personal actions after consumption as opposed to to drugs themselves.

I could see this as an infringement of civil liberties, but it is certainly better than the current laws.

I'm sure I will give your idea much thought, thank you for the post.

Anonymous said...

http://www.idmu.co.uk/taxukcan.htm

£6.5 billion from cannabis regulation

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