There is a new Ipsos MORI poll on attitudes towards cannabis here.

The answers appear somewhat contradictory – asked how cannabis should be classified the most popular response was that it should be a class A drug, supported by 32% of respondents. 26% thought it should be class B, 18% class C and 11% thought it should be legal.

While this seems to suggest support for much stricter regulation, it seems to be contradicted by the questions asking what the current punishment for possession of cannabis for personal use is, and should be. 70% of people thought the current penalty was up to 2 years, 18% longer and 12% didn’t know. 0% thought there was no penalty (which does make one wonder about the 4% of people who thought that cannabis was legal, but still thought there might be a punishment for possessing it. Still, people give strange answers).

Asked what the penalty should be, support seems to be for liberalisation rather than for harsher punishments. 24% think the punishment should be up to 5 or up to 7 years. 41% think it should be up to 2 years, 27% think there should be no penalty.

I think the apparant contradiction is best explained by the definitions given to respondents of the three classifications. Rather than saying that class A was most serious, or that class A carried the highest penalties, they were told Class A were drugs like “Heroin and Ecstacy”, Class B drugs like “Amphetamines and methylphenidate (Ritalin)” and Class C was drugs like “GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) and Ketamine”. Heroin and Ecstacy are obviously far more easily identified as illegal drugs, if you know Heroin and Ecstacy are illegal drugs, you don’t know what the other 4 are, but you do know cannabis is also an illegal drug, where would you think it should fit?

Anyway, the recent media coverage of cannabis in connection with mental health problems seems to have become widely accepted amongst the public. An overwhelming 80% of respondents agreed what “cannabis use has associated mental health risks for users”. 61% agreed that strains of cannabis had become stronger within the last 10 years. Only 25% agreed with the statement that cannabis use did not give rise to physical health problems.


14 Responses to “Ipsos MORI poll on cannabis”

  1. An interesting example of how a poll can give fairly useless results – unless very carefully worded, but without including leading questions.

    Anyway, apart from passing on media comment at second hand, how would 61% KNOW that cannabis “has become stronger” – and, if suitably prompted, wouldn’t a similar proportion agree that alcohol “has associated mental health risks for users”.

  2. When are we going to get another real poll – about voting intentions?

  3. 24% of people think you should go to prison for 5 years for possession of cannabis!!! Really? This is the most shocked I’ve been by polls on this site since I found out that most people want inheritance tax cuts for millionairres.

    I live in a fairly sort of conservartive area and I can’t believe more than one or two people I know (and I know some weird people) would really support s punishment that disproportionate. I think people must just get bored anwering polls over the phone and just give any old answer. I rempember being polled once on what I thought of different meats; “do I think lamb is better from Tesco or Somerfield” and “What words do I associate with gammon?” etc. By the end of it I was just saying “A”, “B”, “C” at random.

    That still doesn’t really explain how the number could be though. Another suprise to me from the poll was that ketamine was only a class C drug? Who came up with this labelling system because it makes no sense?

  4. Steven- I agree, I coulld not believe that almost a quarter of people think people should go to prison for five years for having a spliff in their pocket.

    I wonder what the associations with parties are with drug laws? One assumes Lib Dems would be the most libertarian on drugs. Labour one assumes are likely to be authoritarian to protect the vulnerable from harmful substances. whereas the Conservatives are a mixture of social conservatives like Ann Widdecombe who would cut people’s hand off for using drugs – and more libertatian people like Clarke and Portillo who are not necessarily opposed to legalising cannabis.

  5. I’m waiting for polls on what the Archbishop said.

  6. He said he was sorry for his “unclarity”-lovely word.

  7. NBeale – next regular one will either be YouGov in the Sunday Times (which can be a bit of a moveable feast) or ICM in the Guardian, which is likely to turn up next week though, again, has been known to shift about a bit.

  8. Just checked the poll it’s around 14:05 and it’s at 76% Yes 24% No – so since this morning there has been a 4% swing! show why you should never trust online polling…. wonder where it will be tomorrow morning?

  9. Sounds like this poll may be similar to the ones Millward Brown used to ( and may be still do) on TV ads.when they polled to find out what people remembered about them.What’s clear from this poll is that cannabis is something people have strong feelings about. That’s useful. People have strong feelings about wind farms which IMHO have very little to do with the technology but rather more with the arrogant and inappropriate way it’s been developed in the UK.After all people at raves generally smoke cannabis and while cannabis may or may not be responsible for ravers arrogance about private property and the rule of law it all tends to go together.

  10. Nicholas

    Yes that would be interesting.

    Especially if it compared regular CofE church goers with the general public.

    I think that the CofE church goers are more upset then the rest of the population. But I could well be wrong about that one.

    Is there or has there ever been, an organization in the known universe that is more critical of its own leadership then the people not in it?

    Very likely not. What this could indicate to us all about who or what is really controlling the established church of the country could be more then interesting.

  11. “What this could indicate to us all about who or what is really controlling the established church of the country could be more then interesting.”

    That sounds ominous.. Are we talking lizardmen or invaders or something? :)

  12. It seems to me that the sensible majority think that the drug should be illegal – whether it’s calls A , B or C . The real culprits are the dealers – that should be a mandatory sentence of life in prison (pity we lost the death penalty , because i believe that dealers in death & misery dereve the same) – it’s the dealers not the users we should be targetting & that includes anyone who is a user carrying more than they would use for themselves .

  13. I agree about legality & dealers.

    But neither will help the poor wretches who are addicted. They must be given effective treatment & help to achieve total abstinence-and not a lifetime on Methadone.

    The initiative in Scotland, arising from SNP/Tory co-operation, to look again at treatment regimes is a very good start.

  14. I think we have to be a bit careful about what we class as dealers and such though. Most people selling pot are just kids who buy a couple of ounces and sell half to their mates. I’m not trying to justify it but I don’t really see it as a major crime.

    Personally I think it should just be legalised. I’m very uneasy about this “decriminalisation” strategy. Saying something is against the law but you’ll be let off for it anyway seems to me to be encouraging people to break the law.

    A lot’s been said on the health risks of cannabis but to me it seems to be largely irrelevant. Alcohol and cigarettes are far worse for you both physically, and more importantly, socially. There was a story not that long ago about a kid who had become schizophrenic and it was possibly linked to cannabis. His mother said he had smoked something like an ounce a week every week since he was fifteen. If he’d drunk a bottle of whisky a day instead he’d probably be dead. I think we need to start getting things in proportion. We could start by coming up with a non-political drugs classification system.