Growing numbers of Poles support ending prison sentences for possession of cannabis, and now make up a majority, according to a new poll by Kantar.
In 2017, cannabis was made legal for medical purposes, although the law stipulates that plants cannot be grown in Poland. Possession of marijuana for personal use, however, remains illegal and can carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
The poll asked whether respondents thought that “having small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be punished with imprisonment”. A total of 55% said it definitely or probably should not, while only 30% thought that it definitely or probably should.
When a similar survey was conducted eight years ago by the Institute of Social and Economic Sciences, it found that 51% of Poles did not support prison sentences for possession of small quantities of cannabis while 35% did.
“Education and the growing awareness of Polish society about cannabis is responsible for this result,” said Jakub Gajewski, vice president of the Free Hemp association, quoted by Noizz.pl. “The more Poles know about marijuana and the history of its prohibition, the more clearly they support change.”
Only a minority of Poles, however, appear to support legalisation. The new Kantar poll asked if “marijuana should be legal like alcohol and cigarettes”. Only 32% agreed that it should, while 56% were opposed.
This figure correlated closely with age. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, 47% thought cannabis should be treated the same as alcohol and cigarettes. This figure declined for each successive age group, down to 16% for those aged 65 and over. Men (36%) were more supportive than women (28%).
Attitudes were also linked to political outlook. Among those who declared holding left-wing views, 39% supported treating cannabis like alcohol and cigarettes while among those with right-wing views the figure was 29%.
However, when it comes to ending prison sentences for small-scale possession, even a majority of those with right-wing views, 53%, were in favour, rising to 59% among self-declared leftists.
“Such big support for decriminalisation gives great hope that further politicians, also from the right, will join the parliamentary group on legalisation of marijuana,” said Gajewski.
His organisations is collecting signatures with the aim of encouraging MPs to submit legislation to legalise cannabis.
There appears, however, to be little prospect of a change in the law. Last year, the health minister, Łukasz Szumowski, said he did not support legalising recreational use of cannabis, expressing concerns that it could become a gateway to harder drugs. He also said he once tried marijuana and it “ended terribly”.
Main image credits: Wolne Konopie/Facebook
Juliette Bretan is a freelance journalist covering Polish and Eastern European current affairs and culture. Her work has featured on the BBC World Service, and in CityMetric, The Independent, Ozy, New Eastern Europe and Culture.pl.