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Poll Finds Britons' Support for Liberalized Drug Policies Waning

A poll conducted by The Observer and published in UK's Guardian paper on November 16, 2008 ("The Observer Drugs Poll 2008") found that British citizens' opinions about and attitudes toward drugs and drug use were taking a conservative turn. As the article states, "The poll suggests that the public has generally adopted a tougher stance on drugs law since The Observer last conducted the survey in 2002." Then, "30 per cent of adults believed that UK drug laws were not liberal enough. Now, however, "this proportion has plummeted to 18 per cent." Additionally, while 78 per cent of people "who do support a change in the law [...] believe that cannabis should be legalised or decriminalised," the poll found that "[v]ery few people believe that harder drugs should be authorised in any way." However, the poll's finding that "16-24-year-olds are the most likely to think that there is room for UK law to be more tolerant" should give reformers some hope for the future. Moreover, the Guardian reports that "it does not follow that the older a person is, the less supportive they are of a liberalisation of drugs law; in fact, people aged over 65 are as likely as 25-34-year-olds to say that UK drug laws are not liberal enough." Interested readers should check out the poll for themselves, as it provides a plethora of thorough - if generally disheartening - information regarding British public opinion on illicit substances.

Importantly, the poll did not simply inform the public of their peers' feelings about drugs; it also, according to the Drug War Chronicle's November 21 piece ("British Public Opinion Headed in Wrong Direction on Drug Policy, Poll Finds"), influenced British law. The Chronicle reports that "Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told the newspapers hardening public attitudes were driven in part by concerns about stronger strains of cannabis," against which British tabloids and its Labor government "have been [waging] a sometimes hysterical campaign." Smith continued, "This [more potent cannabis] 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 classified from B down to C [in 2003]." Offering a counterpoint (and a dose of sanity), Martin Smith, who directs Drugscope, "told newspapers [that] the media and the government had falsely portrayed the drug problem as worse than it really was" - a strategy that is apparently working out quite well for the UK's drug warriors and likely having the opposite effect on their constituents.

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Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2009   ~   Accessed: 2147 times
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