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Survey: A Third of Britons Don’t Know What CBD Is

Cannabis plant in a sunset

Whilst we see consistent growth in the British public’s awareness of CBD, we wanted to understand more about their perceptions and understanding. To find out exactly where we stand, we decided to compare the UK to the USA, perhaps the most progressive country when it comes to CBD products. During the last decade, the States have seen tremendous progress in use of cannabis products, having paid more attention to the benefits of CBD than other nations. 

We conducted surveys in both the UK and the USA, asking questions to identify public familiarity with CBD. We looked at where people are in their relationship with CBD, how aware of CBD products they are and whether they held positive or negative perceptions about this group of cannabinoids. All of our survey participants were 25 or older. 

What Has The Survey Unveiled?

We were pleasantly surprised that almost one fifth of UKs correspondents have positive feelings about CBD: 18.2% are aware of CBD or have already tried it. By comparison however, almost half of people surveyed in the USA (40.1%) responded positively to this question.

It seems that more education is needed. 31.5% of Brits said that they do not know what CBD is, compared to only 12.5% of Americans. Of course, being more cannabis friendly, people in the USA have had the benefit of learning through more open discussion regarding CBD, but we will come back to this later in this research.

Interestingly, when it comes to negative perceptions, both countries produced similar data. 50.3%. of Britons said they wouldn’t use CBD, and 47.4% of people in the United States answered similarly to this question. This shows that both countries have very similar amount of people with negative attitudes towards cannabidiol (or CBD). The data here surprised us. Considering that in the US, use of cannabis is legal or decriminalised in majority of states, we expected fewer negative responses to the survey. On the other hand, cannabis containing psychoactive THC is completely forbidden in the United Kingdom (to be precise, any form of cannabis buds is forbidden in the UK). Such a close number has led us to research the history of cannabis in both countries more closely.

History of Cannabis: UK vs. USA

The 20th century was tough for cannabis in both the UK and USA but in two significantly different ways, which has led to differing legal status and opinions currently.

Today, the USA is considered to have a much more progressive approach to derivatives of the Cannabis plant. Many states now have legalised or decriminalised recreational use of cannabis, including CBD. 

Surprisingly, the United Kingdom has a long and rich history with Cannabis. Despite now having tough restrictions on cannabis which began during the 20th century. 

Let’s have a look at the history of the legal and public approach towards cannabis in both countries.

History of Cannabis In The USA Through The 20-21st Centuries

During the prohibition era from 1920 to 1933 which banned alcohol, lawmakers also turned on cannabis. The plant, which was growing in popularity, was accused of crippling the community and was outlawed in the 1930s. The Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act of 1934 made marijuana (a type of cannabis with high amounts of mind altering substance THC) officially illegal. 

Generally, the public didn’t view marijuana as harmful, and they were left confused with little reason from the authorities as to why it was banned. Of course, cannabis wasn’t eradicated from society, with many people still getting hold of it illegally, causing some additional measures from the authorities. 

A nationwide media campaign was launched, helpfully “informing” the public that marijuana causes temporary insanity. These campaigns showed young people committing criminal acts, killing people and themselves as well as dying from marijuana use. Of course, it scared the public and a new law was enacted in all states. This greatly misrepresented marijuana’s effects, very different from laughing, munchies and generally peaceful state that it is known now to cause. These campaigns very likely changed the legal history of cannabis alone. 

This new legal environment was followed by the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act which added more regulations to its industrial use, making it less and less commercially attractive. The final nail in the coffin was in 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) officially outlawed any use of cannabis. Under this law, medical use of the plant was also forbidden. Clearly, the public believed that marijuana must be a plant of evil if it was involved in to so many legal crucifixions.

However, perceptions slowly changed following research and more understanding of the benefits of cannabis and its derivatives. Fast forward to 2012, Washington became the first state to legalise recreational use of cannabis and was joined by Colorado same year. Multiple states followed in legalising or at least decriminalising recreational or medical use of the plant, and campaigning continues in others to make it legal. Nowadays, the USA is considered to be amongst the most cannabis friendly countries in the world.

History of Cannabis In The UK

The United Kingdom, being a country with a long and rich history, unsurprisingly, has a long and fruitful past of public relationship with cannabis plants. There is evidence that cannabis has at least been present in the UK since the 10th century, as cannabis seeds were found in a well in York. This evidence suggests that it was widely used in daily life. Due to its strength, it was used for canvas, ropes, nets and other parts which required easily obtainable, strong material.

In fact, the plant played such a crucial role that King Henry VIII gave an order to landowners to grow hemp. Queen Elizabeth I not only followed his path but increased quotas and introduced penalties to whomever wasn’t fulfilling them. It is easy to see that hemp was one of the most important plants of the early days of the empire. 

Ironically, the empire played a key role in almost ruining the relationship between people and cannabis plants. Started in the 19th century, many British territories began banning cannabis with Mauritius in 1840 and Singapore in 1870 being the first. Prohibitions in separate parts of Empire continued in the 20th century until finally, South Africa banned it in 1922, appealed to the League of Nations to add cannabis to the prohibited drug’s list. Eventually, Britain banned cannabis in 1928, including it in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920. Cannabis and Marijuana to this day are still seen as drugs in the UK. However, CBD products (without the psycho-active substance THC) are currently legal in the UK – but it is not legal to grow cannabis.

Why Cannabis Is Not More Widely Accepted In The UK

After being prohibited for 90 years in the UK, it would be natural to assume that cannabis would be demonized in the eyes of the public and much more so than in the USA. Yet out data only suggest a 2.9% difference in negative perceptions of CBD and related products.

As we already know, cannabis and hemp were much-used in Britain for centuries. It is assumed that the ban ended many positive associations with the plant; however, this is not the case. Thanks to progressive businesses and help from the government that enabled industrial cultivation of cannabis, it has maintained some practical value in the eyes of the public. 

Since 1993, the British Home Office started supporting cannabis businesses in the UK by providing licenses for companies planning to cultivate and process this plant for material use (not as a substance for human consumption). As expected, this turned out to be a good business commercially at the national level. As a result, the government started supporting business with different funding schemes generating a positive public opinion towards cannabis overall.

What Did We Learn From This Survey?

It was interesting to learn that a large percentage of the UK population held positive opinions toward products derived from cannabis, in this specific case, CBD. After seeing these numbers and looking back at the history of the relationship between the British nation and cannabis plants, it makes you think more positively about the future of the industry. Of course, there is a long way to go. No doubt, we will see both positive and negative developments from the regulatory bodies, but eventually, being a progressive country, we should see law being citizen-orientated.

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