Majority of Canadians support decriminalizing marijuana: poll

Medical marijuana users can legally consume other forms of the drug beyond the traditional dried version under new Health Canada rules that follow a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.
According to Ipsos, most Canadians support decriminalizing marijuana. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Gosia Wozniacka

More Canadians than ever support decriminalizing marijuana, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News.

Ipsos found 65 per cent of Canadians (29 per cent strongly/36 per cent somewhat) support the decriminalization of marijuana so that possession of small amounts would no longer carry a penalty or fine.  Conversely, 35 per cent of people oppose (18 per cent strongly/17 per cent somewhat) decriminalization.

“It’s not an overly contentious issue and what I mean by contentious is, you’ve got certain people who really agree with it and groups who really oppose it,” Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos, said in an interview Wednesday.

“Doesn’t matter where you live in the country, a majority of every demographic group supports decriminalization.”

Ipsos has tracked support for decriminalization five times since 1987 and support since then has grown considerably from just 39 per cent to 65 per cent.

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Support is most abundant in British Columbia where 74 per cent of those surveyed support decriminalization. B.C. was followed closely by Atlantic Canada at 71 per cent, Alberta at 67 per cent, Ontario at 65 per cent, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at 63 per cent and Quebec at 60 per cent.

Men were more likely than women to support decriminalization with 72 per cent and 59 per cent support, respectively.

Infographic by Janet Cordahi, Global News

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And the age of respondents mattered; 70 per cent of people between 18 and 34 years old support decriminalization. That number drops to 64 per cent among 35 to 54 year olds and 63 per cent among those older than 55.

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Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has come out in support of full legalization of marijuana this election, NDP leader Tom Mulcair has said people shouldn’t have a criminal record for using pot and Stephen Harper has said he doesn’t support relaxing pot laws.

But is it going to make a difference during the election? Simpson doesn’t think so.

“It’s not the most pressing issue of the campaign. We’ve got bigger fish to fry than worry about whether we’re going to decriminalize or go a step further with marijuana,” he said, citing another Ipsos poll which suggested Canadians were far more concerned about pocket-book items than getting high.

Despite the general consensus that possession of small amounts of marijuana shouldn’t result in a penalty, thousands of people every year are charged with possession. Over 24,000 people were charged with possession of marijuana in 2014, up almost 5,000 from 2004.

View the full Ipsos charts below: 

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Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between August 13 and August 17, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians, from Ipsos’ online panel. The poll reported above is accurate to within 3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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