A majority of the British public back the legalisation of cannabis so that it would be sold in shops like alcohol and tobacco, a poll has revealed.
There was also majority support for decriminalisation, something that would free up police time and resources to deal with serious crime.
The exclusive BMG Research poll for The Independent comes days after cannabis oil was for the first time brought into the UK legally, to treat an epileptic boy.
But within hours of the landmark moment, a young girl was rushed into hospital and placed on life support while she awaited a licence to get the same oil.
More than 1,500 people were asked if they supported or opposed the proposal that “cannabis be legalised, so that it is sold legally within a government regulated market in the same way that alcohol and tobacco is”.
Overall, 22 per cent strongly backed the move, while 29 per cent somewhat supported it, bringing total support to 51 per cent.
Some 19 per cent opposed the move strongly, and 16 per cent, somewhat, bringing the proportion of those against it to 35 per cent, while 14 per cent did not know.
The respondents were then asked: “To what extent would you support or oppose cannabis be decriminalised, so that it is still a controlled substance not available for sale on the market, but that it is not criminalised (i.e. no prosecution for possession)?”
Here support rose slightly, to 52 per cent overall – with 20 per cent strongly backing it and 32 per cent somewhat behind the idea.
Some 17 per cent somewhat opposed the move, while 16 per cent strongly opposed it – total opposition of 33 per cent – and 16 per cent did not know.
High profile figures have recently backed legalisation, including former Conservative leader and foreign secretary William Hague, who said his party should be “bold” in embracing a “decisive change that would be economically and socially beneficial”.
Leader of Britain’s Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has said “criminalising people for possession of small amounts of cannabis is not a particularly good idea”, although he stopped short of backing any change in the law regarding recreational use, even though he signed an early day motion in 2000 calling for the possession of cannabis to be decriminalised.
On Sunday, however, Mr Corbyn would not be drawn on whether he would support such a move and when asked whether cannabis should be decriminalised for recreational, as well as medical use, he said: “I think at this stage we should say that medical use of cannabis is good.
“Cannabis oil use is clearly beneficial to people and that should be decriminalised and made readily available as quickly as possible.”
Medical cannabis prescriptions could be made in UK within weeks
Mr Corbyn stressed the importance of considering the health concerns that arise from all drug-taking and told Sky’s Sophy Ridge that “no drug is without consequences when people take it”.
“Personally, I don’t take any drugs at all and I think we should just think about it quite carefully but let’s go with what’s proposed now which is the availability of cannabis for medicinal purposes,” he said.
“I think criminalising people for possession of small amounts of cannabis is not a particularly good idea and does lead to great difficulties, particularly for young people in communities like mine, so I do think the debate is moving on.”