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Issdp Poster

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Published by: Ewan Hoyle on Aug 13, 2011
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Polling Public Opinion on the Legal Regulation of Drugs Implications for Drug Policy Reform

Ÿ Drug policy is a particularly controversial field of policy which has not been subject to detailed political debate in the UK in recent years. Ÿ The avoidance of the issue probably stems from perceptions of likely public reaction and anticipation of unfavourable press coverage. Ÿ Believing polling on the issue of drugs policy to have been consistently over-simplistic and misleading, the author set out to conduct a poll which provided more information on potential regulatory options.
From July 7 to July 9, 2010, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current age, gender, social class, region and newspaper readership data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of Great Britain.

Light Regulation Alcohol Tobacco 69% 63% 33% 22% 7% 9% 5% 9% 6% 4% Strict Government control and regulation 26% 27% 37% 30% 34% 40% 26% 30% 30% 26% Total for Legal regulation 95% 90% Prohibition I know nothing about this drug 2% 2% 5% 14% 20% 12% 29% 7% 5% 5%

Poster prepared by: Ewan Hoyle Founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform 07817536149 ewanhoyle@gmail.com

Points for Discussion
Ÿ These results support the assertion that traditional “Do you think we should legalise drugs?” polling questions are not at all useful in finding out how the public feel about the reforms suggested by serious drug policy reform advocates. Ÿ The suspicion is that the word “legalisation” suggests to many poll participants a free market in drugs with little regulatory control, or indeed that it is confused with personal or moral approval of drug use. Ÿ It is vitally important for drug policy researchers to be aware that the evidence they present to politicians is unlikely to be acted upon if it conflicts with the evidence provided by opinion polling. Ÿ Drug policy researchers should therefore play an active role in ensuring polling is asking questions which are closely related to potential policies, and that are rigorous and credible. Ÿ In the UK policies promoting the legal regulation of cannabis might receive considerable support across all age ranges and political views. Ÿ Strict control and regulation might receive most vigorous support from those one might expect to be most concerned about the harms of the drug: mothers of teenage children and Daily Mail and Express readers.

3% 8% 25% 34% 39% 40% 41% 54% 59% 65%

Below are some options for the regulation of drugs. Please read each scenario carefully before moving on with the survey. Light Regulation Ÿ A similar position to the current regulation of tobacco and alcohol sales with drugs available for purchase from shops or licensed premises Ÿ Age restrictions, marketing restrictions and health warnings similar to those currently in place for alcohol or tobacco. Ÿ Prices are determined by market forces. Ÿ Profits would be gained by the various companies involved in manufacture, distribution and sale. Ÿ Government would levy taxes in a similar way as they do for alcohol and tobacco. Strict Government Control and Regulation Ÿ Availability restricted to licensed pharmacists or treatment clinics with age restrictions and a ban on branding and marketing. Ÿ Comprehensive education specifically tailored to each drug to be given on social, economic and health consequences before customers are licensed for use. Ÿ Prices are set by an independent panel of experts tasked with discouraging drug use and minimising the illegal market. Ÿ Manufacturers, distributors and retailers compete for government contracts and profits are directed into drugs treatment and education programs. Ÿ Should dependency be an issue, dependent users are offered affordable prices for medically supervised consumption in clinics with the intention of reducing crime committed by addicts to raise money for the purchase of drugs. Prohibition Ÿ Involvement in the drug trade, possession and use of the drug is a criminal offence with the intention of limiting drug availability and deterring use. Ÿ Any persisting demand for the drug is met by illegal dealers working in public or from residential properties. Ÿ Prices are set by illegal dealers taking into account the risks of breaking the law and competition with other suppliers. Ÿ Profits are gained by criminal operations involved in manufacture, distribution and sale. Ÿ Unregulated competition exists between different criminal groups involved in drug supply.

Magic Mushrooms Mephedrone Amphetamines Ketamine Ecstasy Cocaine Heroin

52% 41% 49% 31% 39% 36% 30%

Who would prefer cannabis were legal and how would they like it regulated?
Ÿ There were clear gender differences on what kind of regulation was favoured. Females favoured strict regulation over light by 42% to 30%. Males favoured light regulation over strict by 37% to 32%. Ÿ Though younger people were more likely to favour light regulation, there was no difference in illegal versus legal preference across the age range, with all three categories showing 24-25% support for prohibition. Ÿ Political voting behaviour was not a major predictor of preference. Those who had voted Labour and Conservative in 2010 were indistinguishable in their preferences. Liberal Democrat voters were less supportive of prohibition and more supportive of light regulation. Ÿ The newspaper readership group that most favoured strict regulation were the readers of the Daily Express or Daily Mail at 41% support, with 66% of this group supporting some form of legal regulation. This result may be of particular importance given the frequently expressed concern in political circles as to the opinion of the Daily Mail and its readers when it comes to drug policy reform. Ÿ The single demographic group that most favoured strict government control and regulation of cannabis was the 35-54 year-old female group at 46%. This group would presumably contain the highest number of mothers of teenage children.

The Next Steps
There are efforts underway to raise funds to commission a poll building upon the methodology used here. It is planned for this poll to be designed with the input of drug policy experts, polling experts and the media in order to ensure the greatest validity of results and protection against accusations of bias. It is hoped that this poll can set a precedent for good practice that can be followed internationally and ensure that good, evidence-based drug policy is not blocked by mistaken perceptions of public hostility. The Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform are preparing a policy motion in an effort to change Liberal Democrat drug policy in September at the party’s autumn conference. The motion will call for the UK to work towards strictly controlling and regulating cannabis production, distribution and sale, decriminalisation of possession for personal use of all drugs, and increased investment in drug services including diamorphine maintenance clinics.

Please choose which regulatory scenario you feel would be most tolerable for each of the drugs listed.
To review the full explanations for each scenario, we invite you to click the ‘previous’ button below to review these in full

A Typical British Drug Policy Poll
Do you support or oppose the legalisation of each of the following drugs?
Support Marijuana Ecstasy Powder cocaine Heroin Methamphetamine Crack cocaine 35% 19% 18% 18% 16% 16% Oppose 58% 76% 77% 78% 78% 79% Not sure 7% 5% 5% 4% 6% 5%

Marijuana Legalisation Opinion Polling in the USA
The legal status of marijuana in the US is generating increasing debate and different polling questions are yielding very different results. Below are the results of two different polls carried out in 2011

Further Information
If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this poster please contact Ewan Hoyle on 07817536149 or ewanhoyle@gmail.com Full results of the poll are available, including breakdowns of opinion by age, gender, social class, newspaper readership, political party supported at the 2010 general election, and region of residence. Please e-mail Ewan Hoyle at ewanhoyle@gmail.com The poll reported here was prepared and commissioned by Ewan Hoyle and paid for with contributions from various Liberal Democrat members and elected representatives. Ewan Hoyle is studying for an MSc in Public Policy at the University of Glasgow which will be completed in September. He also has an MSc in Neuroscience from Kings College London.

The Economist/YouGov Poll
Some people say marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco. They say it should be regulated and taxed and made illegal for minors. Do you agree?
Total agree Total 18-29 57.8% 65.6% 44% 65% 41.1% Total disagree 23.5% 12.4% 39% 18.4% 40.5%

The Pew Research Center Poll
Use of Marijuana Should Be...

Legal Total 18-29 65+ Democrats Republicans 45% 54% 30% 53% 30%

Illegal 50% 42% 66% 43% 67%

From January 14 to January 15, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,007 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists (see above).

65+ Democrats Republicans

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