Source: | July 30, 2014

More than two-thirds of Canadians want marijuana laws softened, though a majority still against legalization: poll

OTTAWA — More than two-thirds of Canadians want marijuana laws softened, says an opinion poll conducted for the federal government.

And while a small majority believes companies should not be permitted to sell marijuana just as they sell alcohol and cigarettes, it’s clear many people have no problem with the proposition.

Among the poll’s highlights:

  • 37.3% say marijuana should be legalized;
  • 33.4% want possession of small amounts of marijuana decriminalized, leading to a fine rather than a criminal record;
  • 13.7% say the marijuana laws should stay the same;
  • 12% want penalties increased.

The results of the national survey of 3,000 people, commissioned by the Department of Justice, will add fuel to the debate that is heating up before the 2015 election.

The Liberals under Justin Trudeau want marijuana legalized so its sale is regulated, making it harder for youths to obtain.

The Conservatives say such a change would lead to more kids smoking marijuana. Instead, the government is considering allowing police to fine anyone caught with small amounts of the drug.

Ottawa hired Ipsos Reid to conduct focus groups and an extensive poll to gauge Canadians’ views on hot-button issues such as marijuana and prostitution.

The results were posted online Wednesday.

“The government of Canada wanted a clear and current understanding of the Canadian public opinion on a range of justice issues,” said the report.

“This research was conducted to provide insight into the views, concerns and priorities of Canadians on criminal justice issues.”

The poll, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 7, found respondents were divided about how the government should legislate on prostitution. In June, Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced contentious legislation to prohibit buying sex from prostitutes. It also bans sex workers from selling their services near schools, playgrounds and daycare centres.


Critics say the bill is deeply flawed and will eventually be struck down by the courts.

By comparison, the poll suggested Canadians are not happy with the status quo on marijuana.

Many of them don’t think legalization would increase pot-smoking: 52.6% believe marijuana use would “stay about the same” if legalized, 38.4% say it would increase and 6.3% say it would decrease.

If marijuana is legalized, it is unclear how it would be distributed and who would be allowed to sell it.

To the question, “should companies be allowed to produce and promote the sale of marijuana just like tobacco and alcohol?,” 55.6% said no and 42.4% said yes.

However, 82.9% of respondents believe doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana to patients — something that is now allowed.

The pollster also organized 14 focus groups of 10 people each to discuss the issue in depth.

Most focus-group participants supported leaving the law alone or fining people with small amounts of marijuana so they would not have a criminal record.

There was some support for legalization in focus groups held in British Columbia, but elsewhere there was “very little support.”

Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale said Wednesday the poll shows Canadians don’t believe the current marijuana laws accomplish their “public policy objectives.”

“The status quo is obviously failed policy,” he said.

“That’s clearly recognized by the vast majority of Canadians. They come to some different conclusions about what exactly to do about it, but clearly they want change.”

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