Majority relaxed about cannabis use

MORE than half of Australians support reduced legal penalties for use of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, an analysis of a federal government survey shows. The findings contrast with the Herald/Nielsen poll released yesterday, which showed that two-thirds of people opposed decriminalisation. But that is explained by the different way the poll questions were structured, said Alison Ritter, who heads a drug policy modelling program at the national drug and alcohol research centre at the University of NSW. She said it reflected the different responses likely when people were asked about specific approaches rather than the broader decriminalisation question in the Herald/Nielsen poll, which asked: ”Do you support or oppose decriminalising drug use?” Her group’s analysis of the federal government’s 2010 national household survey on drugs sampled about 26,000 people. This ”clearly shows that most Australians distinguish between legalising the use of illicit drugs and decriminalising their use, which would mean lower penalties for personal use”, Professor Ritter said. The analysis was based on questions about what should happen to anyone found in possession of small quantities of specified drugs. The analysis finds nearly three-quarters of Australians support lighter penalties, or effectively decriminalisation, regarding cannabis, but more than half oppose making personal use of such a drug legal. The poll question listed options such as no action, a warning, referral to treatment, a small fine or criminal-level penalties such as a heavy fine, community service or prison. In the case of possession of small quantities of cannabis, 72 per cent of respondents chose the lighter penalty, as did 52 per cent when asked about ecstasy. About 46 per cent chose the lighter penalty for heroin and methamphetamine/amphetamines. However, when asked a broader question as to whether they thought drugs should be made legal, support dropped sharply. Only about 22 per cent supported this, while 51 per cent opposed ”legalisation” of cannabis. When asked the same question for ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamine/amphetamines, support fell to just 6 per cent or less, and opposition to 80 per cent.

via : Coastal Times

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