Drug policy has often been considered a “third rail” issue in British politics. While some have been more willing to propose a change in policy recent years (e.g. the Liberal Democrat’s floated the idea of cannabis decriminalisation in their most recent manifesto) there is still a fear among many politicians that taking it up as a political issue will lead to repercussions from a hostile electorate.
However our latest polling shows the public actually have quite liberal attitudes on this topic.
When you ask a straight up question on the legalisation of cannabis, the public are almost equally divided: 43% support legalisation and 41% oppose it. The remaining 15% don’t know.
But a simple question like this covers up more nuanced views – not least because drugs policy doesn’t have to be a black and white choice between prohibition and legalisation. Some suggest a third way where substances are decriminalised, meaning that while their sale and possession remain illegal but it is regarded as a minor offence (akin to parking in the wrong place) rather than a criminal one.
When you ask the public to choose between these three options, just under a quarter (24%) support decriminalisation and just over a quarter (27%) support legalisation. This compares to four in ten (40%) who think the current policy is best. So although the current policy comes out highest on its own, when combined a majority (51%) back a more liberal policy, whether it be legalisation or decriminalisation.