Cannabis Campaign: Gotcha! Sun splatters egg on its face with telephone poll

Tarquin Cooper on how the latest attempt to rubbish our campaign backfired
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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE Sun's attempt to turn back the tide against the popular mood to decriminalise cannabis ended with a large portion of egg on its face last week. The results of its "You the Jury" debate on Tuesday on whether to legalise cannabis backfired when readers overwhelmingly supported a change in the law when the paper has continually attacked attempts to do so.

Ironically the results were more decisive than any other newspaper's poll in support of our campaign. Last October, Mirror readers supported the decriminalisation of cannabis by just under two to one. The results of the Sun's debate is therefore particularly damaging to them as two to one of Sun readers were in favour of legalising cannabis. This is after it referred to the Independent on Sunday as "having gone to pot", when the campaign to decriminalise the drug began last September.

Not afraid to insult their readers, a Sun leader claimed that those who supported relaxing the laws on cannabis were "misguided".

"Straw knows that soft drugs can be the first step on the road to heroin and cocaine. Those who treat drugs as recreational toys are dicing with death," itclaimed.

The Sun's embarrassment at the result was clearly demonstrated by relegating the verdict to near obscurity in the bottom lefthand corner on page 8 of Wednesday's edition.

It is the second attempt by a national newspaper to commission a poll to rubbish this paper's campaign. In October last year the Daily Mail claimed it had dealt the Independent on Sunday "a body blow" by showing "a decisive majority of people against legalising cannabis". Their findings, as discovered by an ICM poll, revealed that an overwhelming 71 per cent were in favour of legalising cannabis for medicinal puposes and another 33 per cent were in favour of full legalisation.

These results went further than those conducted by this paper the week before by MORI, which found that only 45 per cent of people were in favour of relaxing the laws for medicinal reasons. In the under-45 age group a similar figure - 45 per cent again - believe that the drug should be decriminalised.

Another survey, conducted by another Conservative paper, could not halt the realisation that the majority of people back our campaign. In Friday's Daily Telegraph, a Gallup survey revealed that 56 per cent of young people were in favour of decriminalising cannabis. Half of the 18-to-34 age group also ridiculed the notion that cannabis leads to hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

The Sun wasn't alone in being embarrassed this week. William Hague, the Conservative Party leader, claimed that cannabis wrecks lives. He believes that cannabis ruined the lives of people he knew at Oxford university.

Writing in the Times last week, the assistant editor, Mary Ann Sieghart - a signed supporter of this paper's campaign - rubbished that claim. The contemporary of Hague revealed that of those she knew who smoked at university: "one or two are Tory MPs".

Keith Hellawell, the so-called drugs tsar, has opened an e-mail address to receive your views. It is CDCU@gtnet.gov.uk

A vote takes place this Thursday in the European Parliament to harmonise drug laws and decriminalise cannabis. Although it is only a recommendation, campaigners say it represents a symbolic step forward.

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