Scottish support for legalising cannabis has dropped by 13 per cent in eight years, according to a major survey, and now proposals that ‘go soft’ on offenders face criticism.
A mere 24 per cent of those questioned in 2009 wanted cannabis to be legalised, compared with 37 per cent who said they would back any such move in 2001.
And in a step which makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s pledge to help users live drug-free lives, it has been revealed that more taxpayer-funded syringes are to be handed out to heroin addicts.
Alistair Ramsay, Chairman of consultancy firm Drugwise, said the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey’s figures on cannabis show the “gulf” in difference of opinion between politicians and the public.
Considerable research in recent years has concluded that cannabis can have a negative effect on mental heatlh.
But pro-cannabis campaigners have long argued for the legalisation of the drug, and the Scottish Government is considering fixed fines for users instead of tougher penalties.
Mr Ramsay said: “Ministers are badgered by interest groups representing the minority who want cannabis legalised.
“But what’s on the streets now is ten times more powerful than what was being smoked in the 1960s”.
The Scottish survey also showed that 47 per cent of adults know someone who has taken drugs, up from 41 per cent in 2001.
The annual survey, which has been running for eleven years, questions around 1,500 people.
A Government spokesman said: “We have committed a record £28.6 million for drug treatment in 2010-11, a 20 per cent increase since 2006-07.
“The national drugs strategy, published in 2008, signalled a new phase in our society’s efforts to reduce drug use.
“Recovery is the aim of the strategy and is centred on the needs of the individual, not their misuse”, the spokesman added.
But Scottish Tory justice spokesman John Lamont claimed the SNP Government needed to implement a new national drugs strategy.
The move to hand more syringes to addicts is reportedly costing taxpayers £1.5 million.
Over four million free syringes are to be given out, which runs contrary to a pledge made in 2008 by the Scottish Government to move away from its ‘harm reduction’ policy.