Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Author: Janice Tibbetts, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, November 25, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Leader-Post
Contact: [email protected]
Ottawa -- Canadians are smoking pot more than ever before and the
majority want police and government to leave people to indulge in peace.
A new poll for the advocacy group NORML Canada shows for the first time
that more than half of Canadians effectively support legalization, with
57 per cent reporting that people should be "left alone" if they are
caught with small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
An advance copy of the survey was given to CanWest News Service on
Wednesday, the same day the federal government released a study of
13,000 Canadians showing that marijuana use has doubled in the last
Fourteen per cent of those surveyed for the federal study said they
smoked pot in the last year, up from 7.4 in 1994. The study also
revealed that almost 30 per cent of 15- to 17-year-olds and 47 per cent
of 18- and 19-year-olds used marijuana in the last year.
"This is really a rude awakening for the government," said Jody
Pressman, executive director of NORML Canada.
"Government is going in the wrong direction if it thinks
decriminalization is a step forward," said Pressman, whose pro-marijuana
group commissioned the poll.
The survey also reveals that only eight per cent support criminalizing
marijuana if it leads to jail time. Another 32 per cent believe that pot
possession should be punished by fines rather than criminal records, a
middle ground that is currently proposed in a federal bill winding its
way through Parliament.
NORML wants the federal government to scrap its controversial
decriminalization bill and bring in an end to prohibition and begin
regulating the industry.
"It's easier to get marijuana on a schoolground today than it is to get
alcohol or cigarettes because we don't apply the same regulatory
measures to marijuana to keep it away from young people," said Pressman.
The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted by SES Research of
Ottawa from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1. The results are considered accurate
within 3.1 per cent, 19 times in 20.
The support for legalization appears to have spiked since last fall,
when a Decima Research poll of 2,015 Canadians showed that only 40 per
cent opposed a state ban on pot smoking.
SES president Nikita Nanos attributed the hike to the government
"normalizing" marijuana use through its policy of allowing people to
smoke for medicinal purposes.
While the latest poll reveals that only eight per cent support
criminalization if it means going to jail, it did not gauge opinion on
the far more likely scenario of people receiving a criminal record but
escaping jail time.
The federal marijuana bill, which was revived last month after two
earlier attempts failed, proposes to eliminate criminal records,
replacing them with fines of $100 or more for people caught with less
than 15 grams, the equivalent of about 15 cigarettes.
A Senate report two years ago also called on the government to end its
marijuana prohibition and implement a system to regulate its production,
distribution and consumption.
Legalizing and regulating the industry would bring in more than $2
billion a year in extra government tax revenue, the Fraser Institute, an
economic think-tank, estimated in a recent report.
The survey shows that Canadians are softening on marijuana laws at a
time when police, the business community and the U.S. are stepping up
The study and the poll were released less than a week before U.S.
President George W. Bush comes to Canada. Canada's position has been an
irritant to the White House and could emerge as a contentious issue
during the presidential visit.
U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci reiterated the U.S. opposition last week
when he predicted liberalizing the law in Canada would lead to increased
checks at the already congested borders.
An influential business group, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives,
also jumped into the debate by saying that marijuana decriminalization
will exacerbate the multibillion-dollar problem of substance abuse in
The poll also provides a breakdown of public opinion, showing that
Quebec residents, renters, and Canadians 18 to 29 and 40 to 59 are most
likely to support a "hands-off" approach.
Westerners were evenly divided on government intervention and Ontario
and Atlantic Canada hovered around the national average. In Quebec, 68
per cent of respondents reported that people should be "left alone" to
smoke pot in peace.
Note: More Canadians smoking pot; more than half support legalization.
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