Support for for legal pot not so high in Britain

William JordanUS Elections Editor
March 19, 2015, 3:56 PM GMT+0

A new YouGov survey of adults in Britain, Germany and the U.S. finds that the British are the most opposed to cannabis legalisation – but many are open to a change in UK drug policy

Three U.S. states and Washington D.C. have legalised the sale and possession of cannabis in recent years, while many more have created exemptions for medical cannabis use or decriminalised the drug. In Britain, however, it is illegal for UK residents to possess cannabis “in any form”, and since 2009 it has been classified as a Class B drug, meaning unauthorised possession can be punished with up to five years in prison.

YouGov’s survey founds there is also a wide gap in public opinion between the United States and Britain on this issue.

Roughly half (48%) of US adults now favour making it legal to use cannabis, against just over a third (37%) who oppose it.

In Britain, the figures are inverted, with half (49%) opposed and a third (32%) in favour.

Germans fall somewhere in between, with opponents of legalisation outnumbering supporters by six points (45-39%). In Germany, possession is technically illegal, but in certain regions, like Berlin, police don’t usually seek prosecution for possession of small amounts. Permission can also be granted for medical or therapeutic use.

Not all groups in Britain oppose legalisation. Adults aged 18-24 favour legalisation by 48 to 32%, while 25-39 year olds are roughly divided, 42 to 39. Liberal Democrat voters also tend to support legalisation (Nick Clegg as spoken out in favour of decriminalising most illicit substances), and Londoners are evenly divided.

In addition, presented with a national version of the legalisation policy put in place in some parts of the United States – where the recreation use and sale of cannabis is allowed, but taxed and prohibited for people under 21 years of age – support among the British public rises to 40%, with only 46% opposed. Most adults under 40 years of age would support a policy like this.

However Britons still lag behind Americans, who would back a nationwide legalise-and-tax policy by 51% to 39%.

In Colorado alone, as much as $53 million has already been raised from the 15% excise tax imposed on cannabis sales. Some of the money will be used to help fund public schools in the state, a requirement of the law that legalised the drug for recreational purposes in 2012.

Full results for the US, Germany and Britain