Londoners support decriminalisation by 50% to 33%, but are divided on the likely effects on crime, health and drug use
London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently launched a commission to examine whether cannabis should be decriminalised, or even legalised in London. The former approach would see those caught in possession of cannabis subject to no criminal penalties, whilst the latter would allow the sale and use of the substance within government regulations.
New YouGov data finds that Londoners support decriminalising cannabis within the boundaries of the capital by 50% to 33%. However opinion is divided across party lines, with 64% of the capital’s Labour voters supporting such a move compared to only 34% of Conservative voters.
Younger Londoners are also notably more likely to support a change in the law, with 52% of 18-24s and 56% of 25–49-year-olds supporting decriminalisation, versus 45% of 50-64 year olds and 34% of those aged 65 and over.
What do Londoners think the impact of decriminalising cannabis in the capital would be on crime?
Drug related crime in the UK last year accounted for 210,000 offences, according to government statistics, with 63% of drug related offences involving possession of cannabis. One in three Londoners (33%) believe that decriminalising cannabis in the capital would lead to less crime, while one in four (23%) think it would lead to more. Another quarter (26%) think it would make no difference.
Two in five (41%) also believe that relaxing the rules would decrease the amount of pressure on the Metropolitan police, whilst a quarter (24%) instead believe it would increase pressure on them.
Among those who oppose decriminalising cannabis, a majority believe that the relaxation in the law would increase the amount of crime (55%) and increase pressure on the Metropolitan Police (53%).
What do Londoners think the impact of decriminalising cannabis in the capital would be on how many people use drugs?
When it comes to the implications of relaxing the rules for the rate of drug use, Londoners are divided. While 39% think decriminalisation would lead to more people using cannabis in the capital, nearly half think it would either make no difference (41%) or see numbers fall (5%).
Cannabis has famously been referred to as a ‘gateway drug’ i.e. the idea that use of cannabis softens the user’s impression of ‘harder’ drugs, which subsequently increases their chances of using them.
Half of Londoners do not seem to buy this idea, believing that the decriminalisation of cannabis in the capital would either reduce (14%), or have no effect (38%) upon the number of people choosing to use drugs besides cannabis. A quarter (27%), however, believe it would lead to greater use of other drugs, rising to 63% amongst those who oppose decriminalisation of cannabis in the capital.
What do Londoners think the impact of decriminalising cannabis in the capital would be on drug-related health issues?
The UK now has one of the highest rates of drug related deaths in Europe. Londoners are divided on what the impact of the decriminalisation of cannabis would be on drug-related health harms.
Three in ten (30%) believe that decriminalising cannabis in the capital would have no impact on the rate of drug-related health issues overall, while a third (35%) think it would lead to more drug-related health harm.
A further 15% believe that relaxing the rules would lead to fewer drug-related harms. Three quarters (74%) of those who oppose the decriminalisation of cannabis believe the policy would lead to more people damaging their health due to their drug taking.