A major new survey commissioned by the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG) demonstrates powerful public support for making medical cannabis legally available to patients who could safely benefit from it. It also indicates a clear and growing appetite overall for a new approach to drug policy in the UK.
Altogether 77% of those questioned by YouGov supported legalisation of cannabis-based medicines, while 76% responded that that they would personally consider using a cannabis-based medicine to treat a condition where there was strong evidence of benefit.
Almost a quarter (24%) think that patients who have been prescribed cannabis by their doctor should be allowed to grow their own plants (23% among Conservative voters), with 22% believing anyone should be allowed to grow cannabis. However, opinion is divided on home-growing with 40% saying that no-one should be allowed to grow cannabis under any circumstances. A majority (69%) are not concerned medical cannabis will have negative consequences for society.
The findings on attitudes to medical cannabis come after the government legalised some cannabis-based medicines from November 2018, giving specialist doctors the power to prescribe. Despite this, virtually no NHS prescriptions have been issued to date, leaving expensive private prescriptions well beyond the reach of most families.
On the broader question of drug policy, seven out of ten YouGov respondents believe the UK’s drug policy focusing on prohibition and criminalisation has not been successful in reducing the harm done by drugs. Almost eight of ten people questioned (79%) do not believe government policy deals well with the country’s drug problems.
While a majority understand the harmful effect of drugs, more than half (53%) of the 1690 people questioned by YouGov felt that drug use was now best viewed as a health issue to be dealt with by healthcare professionals focused on reducing harms, rather than maintaining the current emphasis on criminalising users.
More than three-quarters (76%) said that the threat of criminal punishment was not effective at deterring individuals from using illegal drugs. Tellingly, more than one third (35%) admitted to having used an illegal substance at some point, making them criminals in the eyes of the law.
When asked a general question on government legalisation of cannabis, 48% expressed support – up from 43 per cent in a comparable YouGov survey carried out 13 months earlier. Support rose to 52% of respondents nationwide aged between 18 and 49 and to 56% of the same demographic in London.
CEO of the CDPRG Rob Wilson says: “Illegal drugs are doing terrible damage to families and communities throughout the country. Thousands of people are dying, many hundreds of thousands of young people are taking drugs which they neither understand nor know what they contain. At the same time violent criminal gangs are making massive financial gains while preying on the weak and vulnerable.”
“The findings of this survey demonstrate the urgent need for policymakers and government to start to rethink policy as part of an open, fully informed and evidence-based debate on the future of drugs policy. “
“The CDPRG exists to promote exactly that debate, taking account of all the mounting evidence from around the world where different solutions have been applied. Public thinking is moving ahead of the government’s commitment to the rhetoric, if not the reality, of kneejerk prohibition. It is vital that we provide policy makers and public alike with all the evidence possible to inform their decisions and opinions.
“We also support the public’s belief, clearly expressed in this survey, that there should be the earliest access possible to medicinal cannabis where it provides safe benefits for users - including pain relief for sufferers.”
Commenting on the findings, former Chief Constable of Durham Police Mike Barton said: “We simply cannot arrest our way out of drug problems. Many of us in law enforcement have long been calling for a public health approach to drugs. These figures show the British public agree criminalisation isn’t the solution to drug problems. A public health approach could reduce harms for users as well as freeing up police resources to tackle serious crime.”
The Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group aims are to promote an evidence-based debate on drug policy and, eventually, to see the setting up of a Royal Commission to review all the evidence and make recommendations.
The full YouGov research can be found here.
For more information visit www.cdprg.co.uk
This poll was conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG). Interviews were conducted online with a nationally representative sample of 1690 respondents in Great Britain between 16th and 19th June 2019. The full survey results are attached.
The CDRPG is a company limited by guarantee, operating as a not for profit entity. Parliamentarians associated with the Group and its supervision receive no remuneration for their roles within CDPRG. Below the Board, CDPRG has an independent Policy Advisory Council including MPs, peers, and GLA Assembly Members. The Policy Advisory Council draws on the eminent expertise of leading figures from the medical, health, ethics, economics and law enforcement sectors - as well as leaders and opinion formers from supporting think tanks and charities.
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