A new poll has found that the majority of Londoners support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.
The survey, commissioned by Volteface for the Evening Standard and conducted by Survation, highlights just how unpopular current cannabis laws are in the UK.
The survey asked Londoners: “Do you support or oppose the regulation and legislation of cannabis for adult use in the UK?”
The vast majority of participants in the survey were strongly in favour of widening access to cannabis for adults in the UK. 63% of London residents support legalisation and regulation of cannabis, while just 19% oppose legalisation.
According to the poll, the main reason Londoners support legalising recreational cannabis is the positive economic impact it would have.
Prohibition of cannabis has allowed criminal gangs to gain control of the lucrative market. 72% of Londoners were persuaded by the fact legalising cannabis would take £2.5 billion out of the hands of these criminals, bringing this money into the regular economy.
Colorado has already reaped the benefits of utilising a science-based approach to cannabis. The US State has now generated more than $1 billion in total state revenue from the legal cannabis industry.
According to Institute of Economic Affairs, the cannabis market in the UK is worth an estimated £2.5 billion, with potential tax revenues of £1 billion. 68% of Londoners found the fact that the UK could also raise this amount in tax revenues persuasive.
Another adverse effect of prohibition has been the reduction in choice of strength for British cannabis consumers, leading to high-strength cannabis being the only option on the street.
Regulation would allow retailers to correctly label cannabis, affording consumers the option to choose between different strengths of cannabis, e.g. a low-THC, high-CBD strain, or a 1:1 strain. 68% of Londoners were persuaded by the argument that legalisation would lead to regulation.
Regulating cannabis is also the most effective way to prevent children under 18 accessing cannabis. Allowing drug dealers to control the market has created a situation where the only form of identification you need to buy cannabis is money. Legalising and regulating recreational cannabis would bring protective measures similar to those which prevent children from buying alcohol. 66% were persuaded by the argument legalisation would reduce children’s access to cannabis.
States and countries which have already legalised or decriminalised cannabis have seen a reduction in violence, a fact which 66% of Londoners found compelling.
“The result shows the economic incentive is most prominent, as well as health concerns to limit potency of cannabis…”
– Liz McCulloch, director of policy for Volteface
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania investigating the impact of relaxing laws on cannabis found that domestic assaults resulting in severe physical trauma, such as broken bones, significantly drops after decriminalisation. Researchers in America also found that when a state on the Mexican border legalised medical use of the drug, violent crime fell by 13% on average.
Despite the cast majority of support coming for pro-legalisation arguments, a few arguments in favour of maintaining prohibition were popular among Londoners, with 65% convinced by the argument legalisation leads to more car accidents, and 63% supporting the argument that it would lead to an increase in cannabis-related mental health problems.
Both of these arguments have been effectively challenged by studies.
A study from the American Journal of Public Health found no statistical difference in crash death rates three years after legalisation, so Londoners should have no worries about legalisation leading to an increase in road traffic accidents.
The argument that cannabis-use is directly caused to developing schizophrenia has long been debated, with no study so far finding a direct causation, merely correlations. Researchers have found that roughly 23,000 people would need to abstain from ever using cannabis to prevent one of them from experiencing a psychotic episode.
However, if a link was found between high-THC cannabis and developing psychosis, the only way to prevent this from becoming a problem is by legalising and regulating cannabis, which would offer consumers the choice between high-THC strains and ones higher in CBD.
Discussing the results of the survey, Liz McCulloch, director of policy for Volteface, said:
“This is the first time the public have been asked what arguments for and against they find most convincing.
“The result shows the economic incentive is most prominent, as well as health concerns to limit potency of cannabis, which probably reflects concerns around the harms of high potency cannabis known as ‘skunk’.
“The link between heavy use of skunk and psychosis rightly worries the public, so legalisation campaigners would have to assure the public that it would lead to fewer mental health cases, not more.”