Drug legalisation: Poll reveals generation gap as young adults turn their back on narcotics

Exclusive: People in their thirties and early forties have the most liberal views on drugs

Andrew Grice
Saturday 09 April 2016 21:47
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The drug is thought to be increasingly potent
The drug is thought to be increasingly potent

Sharp differences between the generations over whether Britain should reform the drugs laws is revealed in a poll by ORB for The Independent.

Although those aged 65 and over oppose relaxing the laws, 18- to 24-year-olds are less keen on reform than people in their thirties and early forties, who have the most liberal views on drugs.

The findings suggest that today’s young adults may also be turning their backs on using drugs. A majority of 18-24 year-olds (54 per cent) believe that it should be completely illegal to buy or sell non-skunk cannabis. In contrast, a majority of 35-44 year-olds back change. Some 40 per cent of this group think that possession should be decriminalised and supply restricted, with a further 17 per cent believing that the drug should be legal and freely available to buy and sell. Some 41 per cent of this group say that selling or buying it should be illegal.

Full legalisation of cannabis is backed by only eight per cent of those aged 65 and over, while 31 per cent back decriminalising possession and 58 per cent think it should be illegal to buy or sell.

According to ORB, support for the controlled sale of cannabis in licensed shops is strongest among 35-44 year-olds, 55 per cent of whom back the idea. A slightly smaller proportion of 18-24 year-olds (51 per cent) and 25-34 year-olds (52 per cent) endorse the proposal, which enjoys the backing of only 37 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Some 43 per cent of those in the 25 to 44 age bracket say they have tried non-skunk cannabis – significantly more than the 30 per cent figure among 18-24 year-olds. Only 14 per cent of people aged 65 and above have used the drug. One in four in the 25-44 bracket have tried skunk but only 17 per cent of 18-24 year-olds have done so. One in five (22 per cent) 35-44 year-olds has tried ecstasy but only nine per cent of 18-24 year-olds have taken it.

Young adults have a less tolerant attitude towards tobacco and alcohol than older people, the poll suggests. Some 58 per cent of 18-24 year-olds believe it should be legal to buy and sell tobacco, with 18 per cent saying it should be illegal and 23 per cent that possession should be decriminalised with supply restricted.

In contrast, 73 per cent of those aged 65 and over think tobacco should be legal to buy and sell. One in 10 in the 18-24 age group believes alcohol should be illegal to buy and sell and 15 per cent that possession should be decriminalised with supply restricted. Three out of four think it should remain legal. But at least 80 per cent of those aged 25 and over believe that buying and selling alcohol should be legal.

Only half (51 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds have smoked tobacco, compared to more than 70 per cent of those aged 55 and over. Some 17 per cent of 18-24 year-olds say they have never tried alcohol, compared to about five per cent among those aged 45 and above.

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