Legalizing pot only priority for 15% of Canadians, despite support

Marijuana legalization
Six in ten Canadians support the legalization of marijuana use, according to a new poll. The Canadian Press

TORONTO – As Canada’s “Prince of Pot” returns to Canada after five years of jail time for selling marijuana seeds to customers in the U.S., a new poll suggests the majority of Canadians are on Marc Emery’s side when it comes to legalizing marijuana.

But most don’t see legalization as a top priority for the feds.

An Angus Reid Global (ARG) poll released Tuesday showed 59 per cent of respondents believe the use of marijuana should be legalized, though 41 per cent believe it should stay illegal.

When it comes to various provinces, support is strongest on Canada’s coasts:

  • 70 per cent of British Columbians support legalization
  • 68 per cent of Atlantic Canadians
  • 63 per cent of those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
  • 53 per cent each in Alberta and Quebec

The poll suggests only slight differences when it comes to sex and age differences in the profile of those who support or oppose marijuana legalization.

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“Men are slightly more supportive [62 per cent compared to 56 percent of women], and…respondents age 55 plus are slightly less supportive,” said ARG vice president Shachi Kurl.

Federal political party affiliation also related to legalization: Forty-three per cent of respondents who voted Conservative in the last election supported legalization, compared to 70 per cent who voted Liberal and 68 per cent who voted NDP.

Such beliefs reflect the campaign platforms—Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants to legalize it, the NDP wants to decriminalize it, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has no plan to do either.

“In the Canadian political landscape, we know the Conservative party to be the party that has the hardest line on marijuana and legalization, and knowing that—those who oppose legalization—they’re going to put their vote somewhere,” said Kurl.

“But that four in 10 or two in five past Conservative voters would say that they support it—not tremendously surprising because that says to us that the remainder don’t, and that’s a much larger margin among past Conservative voters than it is anywhere else among the other parties.”

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The Conservative government’s position of leaving marijuana laws the way they stand appears to coincide with a lack of urgency reflected in the poll: Only 15 per cent of those surveyed believe legalizing the possession and use of marijuana should be considered a first or second priority when it comes to the federal government’s crime/safety/justice issues.

Here’s the order such issues were considered a top priority—by percentage of support:

Kurl told Global News the numbers in Tuesday’s poll are in line with similar poll findings in 2010 and 2012.

“Canadians have at best been split on this issue; it’s not as though we’ve gone from being overwhelming opposed to legalization to now in a place where we’re more supportive,” she said.

“Looking back over the last four or five years what we’ve seen is perhaps some hardening of support, but not a great sea change in the landscape on this.”

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The ARG online poll surveyed 1,510 Canadian adults randomly selected out of Angus Reid Forum panellists on May 23-24, 2014. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARG.

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