The YouGov Big Survey on Drugs: Should possessing or selling drugs be legal?

Milan DinicResearch Manager
January 24, 2022, 4:18 PM GMT+0

Four in ten Britons (40%) think that UK drug laws are too soft, while one in five (19%) think they are too strict, and a quarter (24%) think they are about right.

Men are more likely than women to think that UK laws on drugs are too strict (22% vs 15%). Younger Britons are also likely to see the drug laws as being too strict: 30% among those aged 18-24, compared to 21% of 25-39 year olds, and 12-17% among those aged 40 and older.

For the purposes of this study, we refer to soft drugs (such as cannabis or speed) and hard drugs (such as cocaine or heroin).

Three in ten Britons (30%) think that the possession of soft drugs such as cannabis should be legal providing it is for personal use only. A third (33%) think possessing soft drugs for personal use should be illegal but treated as a minor offence, while a quarter (25%) say it should be a criminal offence.

A political breakdown of the results shows that twice as many Labour voters as Conservatives (41% vs 19%) back legalising the possession of soft drugs.

When asked whether selling soft drugs should be legal, one in five Britons (19%) support this. Again, there is a strong political divide here: 10% of Conservative voters support the idea, compared to nearly a quarter (23%) of those who voted Labour.

One in four (24%) think the sale of soft drugs should be illegal but not criminalised, while nearly half of Britons (47%) think this should be a criminal offence.

Two-thirds of Britons (64%) who say they take hard/soft drugs think that the sale of soft drugs should be legalised, while just 7% of them say it should be a criminal offence.

Six percent of Britons think that possessing hard drugs – such as heroin or cocaine – for personal use should be legal.

Seven in ten Britons (70%) think that the possession of hard drugs should be a criminal offence, with significantly more Conservatives (85%) than Labour voters (60%) backing this.

One in six (16%) say possessing hard drugs should be considered a minor offence. Again, this view is shared more by Labour (24%) than Conservative (7%) voters.

A quarter of Britons who currently use hard/soft drugs (26%) say possessing hard drugs should be legal, half (51%) think it should be a minor offence, while 22% say it should be a criminal offence.

The story is different when it comes to the issue of selling hard drugs: just 3% of Britons support legalising this and 6% say it should be illegal but a minor offence. Eight in ten (83%) think that the sale of hard drugs should be a criminal offence.

Overall, men are more likely than women to be more lenient when it comes to the legality of drug possession and selling. Older Britons – those aged 60 and above ­– tend to take a somewhat harder line on the issue than younger age groups.

See full results here and here

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