The following press release was issued today by the campaigning group Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform. The blog will explore its fascinating findings in more detail at a later stage. For more information on drug policy and public opinion see Transform's (soon to updated) 2004 briefing Attitudes to Drug Policy and Drug Laws: A review of the international evidence.
Note: Transform has provided a quote, but has not been involved in the poll, and has no affiliation with the LDDPR
New poll shows 70% support for legal regulation of cannabis
Three other drugs: Magic Mushrooms, Amphetamines, and Mephedrone show a majority in favour of legalisation and regulation, whilst 3 in 10 people would prefer the state regulate rather than prohibit heroin supply. These poll results demonstrate that the public is ready for a mature, open discussion of alternative approaches to drug policy and that there is no need for politicians to fear a backlash should they express doubts about the wisdom of our current approach.
Rather than just ask whether each drug should be “legalised”, the poll gave brief descriptions of three regulatory options and asked the public to pick which they thought most tolerable for each of a series of drugs. The options were:
- Light regulation (drugs sold like tobacco and alcohol are now)
- Strict government control and regulation (an example of how government could heavily regulate a legal market in an attempt to minimise harm)
- and Prohibition (the current status of illegal drugs).
Headline results include:
- 70% support for cannabis legalisation/regulation, with 1 in 3 of those polled feeling that it should be sold in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco.
- More people supporting legalisation/regulation than prohibition for 3 other drugs: Magic Mushrooms (52% to 34%), Amphetamines (49% to 40%), and the recently banned “legal high” Mephedrone (41% to 39%).
- 39% support for the legal regulation of ecstasy sales, 36% support for regulation of cocaine, and 30% of respondents supported the legal regulation of heroin.
- For alcohol and tobacco over 1 in 4 respondents supported strict government control and regulation and 8% expressed a desire for tobacco to be prohibited.
“The “Do you think x drug should be legalised?” question asked in polls up until now has failed to elicit any useful information. It may be interpreted by many poll participants as a question on their moral tolerance of drug use, or may conjure up thoughts of an unregulated free-market that they rightly judge to be dangerous. This poll shows that, when asked to choose between some of the actual regulatory options available, the public regards the strict controls and regulations that are being proposed by the reform movement as a sensible solution to our drugs problem.”Steve Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation said:
“The percentage favouring the legal regulation of Class A drugs is far higher than in previous polls and I would expect this percentage to rise still further as the debate progresses and the causes of the astronomical social and financial costs of problem drug use under the current system are explained. Prohibition of cocaine and heroin is causing, not preventing, massive harms to communities in the UK, and to all the countries in the world that this illegal trade touches.”
"It is important that people understand that ‘legalisation’ is a process not a policy endpoint – and is one that can lead to strict government regulation of markets. It does not imply an unregulated commercial free for all that many may imagine if no other options are outlined. If anything an unregulated free for all is what we have under prohibition.
The important lesson for politicians is that they don’t need to be afraid of public opinion on this issue if it is presented in the more practical terms of market regulation"
Notes for editors:
- How the poll looked to participants
- From July 7 to July 9, 2010, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current age, gender, social class, region and newspaper readership data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of Great Britain.
- Complete data breakdown in google doc spreadsheet format: here, here and here
Contacts for comment:
Ewan Hoyle - Founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform
Prominent Lib Dem blogger and leading member of LDDPR
Transform Drug Policy Foundation 01179415810