Cannabis is currently classified as a Class B drug in the United Kingdom, meaning the maximum penalty for possession is up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was legalized in 2018, but some advocates argue the UK should join the likes of Canada, Uruguay, and some American states in legalizing cannabis for recreational use.
In the latest poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, a plurality (43%) of Britons said they support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use, a slight increase from 41% in July 2020 when we last asked this question. Opposition has decreased from 32% in July to 29% in our latest poll, while a quarter (24%) of respondents continue to say they neither support nor oppose recreational cannabis legalisation.
Support for the legalisation of recreational cannabis use is highest among the youngest age groups, with half (50%) of both 18-to-24-year-olds and 25-to-34-year-olds saying they support legalisation. A significant proportion of respondents aged 35 to 44 (47%) and 45 to 54 (46%) also support recreational cannabis legalisation.
However, opposition increases among the older age groups: 55-to-64-year-olds are split between supporting (37%) and opposing (35%) recreational cannabis legalisation, while a greater proportion of respondents aged 65 and over oppose (38%) rather than support (33%) legalisation.
A plurality of 2019 Conservative voters also oppose (39%) the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use, though this group’s opposition has decreased from 44% in July. In our latest poll, a third (34%) of 2019 Conservative voters said they support recreational cannabis legalisation, compared to half (50%) of 2019 Labour voters. Legalisation also has the support of 48% of respondents who voted for the Liberal Democrats, which was the only major political party to include recreational cannabis legalisation in their 2019 Manifesto.
With a plurality of Britons in support, the calls for legalising recreational cannabis use are likely to continue. Indeed, some have suggested the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic could be alleviated by cannabis legalisation or decriminalisation. Opposition remains considerable, however, especially among older members of the British public and those who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 Election.