2018 has seen movement across the world to relax legislations around cannabis; Canada legalised recreational cannabis in October and from the 1st November clinicians will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis here in the UK following legislation earlier this year spearheaded by the home secretary, Sajid Javid. Volteface and the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis commissioned Populus to find out more about public perceptions on cannabis.

Perceptions on medicinal cannabis

The research showed that the majority of UK public, 76%, would be open to consuming cannabis as a medicine if prescribed to them by a doctor. This was consistent across the demographic groups, with young people aged 18-24 slightly more likely to consume prescribed cannabis medicine at 81%.

A minority of the public, 13%, would actively ask their doctor or healthcare provider about accessing cannabis medicines. This was significantly lower when looking at the 65+ age group with only 9% stating that they plan on asking their doctor or healthcare provider.

In March 2018, Populus also explored UK MP’s perception of cannabis. The survey, conducted on the Populus MP Panel of 109 MPs found that a majority (61%) supported the legislation of cannabis for medical use only.

Perceptions on recreational cannabis

The research commissioned by Volteface also looked at public perceptions around recreational cannabis. 59% of the public would support the legalisation of cannabis in the UK. Support for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK was shown to be higher amongst the 18-24 age group at 68%.

There has been a significant increase in the support of legalising cannabis from Populus research commissioned in 2016, which found that 34% would support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

The Populus survey of MPs conducted in March 2018 showed that unlike medicinal cannabis, there is little political appetite to change the law on recreational use. Just 12% of UK MPs ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ supported the legislation of recreational cannabis.

Currently, only one third of the British population (34%) think the sale and possession of cannabis should remain a criminal offence.


Populus conducted 2,065 online interviews with a nationally representative sample of UK respondents aged 18+. Interviews took place online between the 24thand 25th October 2018 with quotas set on age, gender and region and data weighted to the known profile of the UK. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

See the data tables here.

Populus is a full service research and strategy consultancy unlocks the Critical Knowledge that brands need to better understand the world around us. We add value to our findings by applying expert analysis to uncover clear, actionable insight. Find out more by calling 020 7253 9900 or emailing info@populus.co.uk.