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Europe: British Public Opinion Headed in Wrong Direction on Drug Policy, Poll Finds

If a comprehensive poll released last weekend is accurate -- and there is no reason to think it isn't -- British public opinion on drug policy is headed in the wrong direction. The poll conducted by ICM Research for the Observer and the Guardian newspapers found that public attitudes toward drug use, drug users, and drug sellers had grown decidedly more hard-line in recent years.

According to the poll, the proportion of people who think drug laws are "too liberal" has increased from 25% in 2002 to 32% now. At the same time, the number of people who think the drug laws are "not liberal enough" has dropped from 30% to 18%, and support for decriminalizing soft drugs has declined from 38% to 27%.

Respondents showed little sympathy for people who distribute drugs, whether they be professional drug dealers or merely sharing them with friends. About 70% said that all dealers should be treated the same -- with prison sentences. And 63% said drug addicts should be imprisoned.

Somewhat paradoxically, there is strong, though not majority, support for decriminalizing drug possession (38%) and making drugs available to addicts by prescription (44%).

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told the newspapers hardening public attitudes were driven in part by concerns about stronger strains of cannabis. Both the Labor government and the British tabloid media have been engaged in a sometimes hysterical campaign to whip up fears about "skunk" in particular, as if that specific high-potency strain were somehow different from "regular" marijuana.

"This is a very important determinant of our decision to reclassify [cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug]. This is a different drug even to that which was reclassified from B down to C [in 2003]," she claimed. "People are now beginning to recognize this isn't just some kind of harmless thing, but can have a serious impact on young people's mental health." People also realized marijuana production involved organized crime, she added.

But Martin Smith, the director of Drugscope, told newspapers the media and the government had falsely portrayed the drug problem as worse than it really was. "Although overall illegal drug use has been falling and significant progress has been made in tackling drug-related crime, many people believe the problem at best is getting no better," he said.

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Pursuit of Happiness

It is NO ONE'S BUSINESS HOW I or another enjoys oneself UNLESS I or another cause harm! I have the right to face my accuser - who was damaged by me smoking a joint?

Whether the controlled manipulated media says this or that - it makes NO DIFFERENCE! THEY SHOULD JUST "SHUT UP" & keep their opinions to themselves as their opinions have NO LEGAL AUTHORITY.

The main reason why drugs of any sort are illegal is it good business for the government & the wicked evil ATTORNEYS!

Just like withholding the cures for cancer so the profits of the doctors & the hospitals are NOT interrupted.

It is similar to withholding the technology which allows engines to extract the hydrogen to power the vehicles.

Are you seeing a pattern?

You don't say!

People also realized marijuana production involved organized crime, she added.

Of course she fails to mention that this is by definition, since there's no non-criminal way for an organization to produce and sell it (outside of medicinal uses). For that matter I wonder if this is expressed public opinion or her guessing.

This is exactly why decriminalization-based reforms should emphasize clear goals and effective reporting of their successes in reducing harm; you can't eliminate crime when only half of the production-consumption chain is legal.

Stronger?! Sure, but get real people!

I'm always enraged when I hear people express fears over how much "stronger" cannabis has become since the 1970s. I listened to a political science professor claim that some strains are thirty times stronger - ludicrous!

If you are lucky, then you might (possibly) find some cannabis today as strong as 19-23% THC. This means in the 1970s the strongest you would be expected to find is less than 1% THC content with the average potency being even lower. This would only be enough to give you a headache so why even smoke it? Sure, cannabis has risen in potency but the claims made today are frighteningly exaggerated.

When will somebody with a public voice finally use their F'ing brain?


It's discouraging to read that the Brits - long a beacon of sense and tolerance in drug policy - are heading towards The Darkness. Lighten up, Mate!

marijuana users are scapegoats for the sins of alcohol users

probably nowhere more so than in Britain where alcoholism is the national pastime.

I wonder if shifting

I wonder if shifting attitudes have anything to do with increased immigration to the UK since the expansion of the European Union in 2004, when 8 Eastern European nations where added. Prejudice against minorities and prejudice against drugs are often (albeit largely unconscioulsy) intertwined.

Erin J says...

I thought that Europe was more proactive when it came to drug policy but I guess these "polls" prove otherwise. Every person is affected by the drug war differently and therefore feels a need to end drug prohibition or to tighten the grip on it. Since British may not have a very monumental role in shaping world society, this may not be much of a doomsday for reform supporters, just interesting facts about how some people's ideolgies are so counterproductive when it comes to these things. Educaton on these issues are key for any person who needs to free themselves from the mental slavery this drug war has put so many people (US or non-US citizen) in!

Malkavian's picture


This insanity is sweeping a lot more than Britain. In my country, Denmark, we hear the same Reefer Madness crap about skunk, and in Schwitzerland they're also concerned about this "new, stronger cannabis" and want to regulate it to make it less strong (like ... DUH! Way more than Homer stupid....). It's as if every drug warrior figured out that people weren't afraid of pot, just as they weren't afraid of hemp back in the early 20th centry USA. Just like hemp became "marijuana", now pot is becoming "skunk". Easier to project your fear onto the unknown, right?

9/11 started this whole backlash "back to basics" and the current financial and economic crisis will do us no good either.

Those politicians aren't one iota better than the priesthood of earlier days. It's like they thrive MORE in times of no reason, no evidence and no science.

There's even a clear parallel to 1979. That year should, at least in the US with Jimmi Carter, have been the birth of a more lenient and rational approach to drug policy, but EVERYONE underestimated the power and determination of the conservatives and religious grass roots. These people are and have always been very powerful, but we didn't think so because none of them said much. Well, they didn't HAVE to say much, because they we're already having their insane Drug War, but they rose to defend their medieval views when they got scared that the reform movement might actually succeed.

THAT'S why there's this paradoxical large group of legalization friendly people at the same time that the majority wants to turn the whole friggin' world into a GULAG just like the USA has done today.

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